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Curricular Elements That Promote Professional Behavior In A Design Class

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Student Teams and Design Skills

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.380.1 - 11.380.19



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Paper Authors


Steven Zemke Gonzaga University

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Steven C. Zemke, an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Gonzaga University in Spokane Washington teaches sophomore, junior, and senior level design courses. His research interests include enriched learning environments, non-traditional instructional methods, and design processes. Before changing careers to academia Steven was a design engineer and manager in industry for 20 years.

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Donald Elger University of Idaho

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Donald F. Elger, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Idaho in Moscow, has been actively involved with traditional research and pedagogy for the past 15 years. Research interests include the design of enriched learning environments, meaningful learning, mentoring, the design process, fluid dynamics, and heat transfer. Dr. Elger teaches courses in design and in fluid mechanics.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Curricular Elements that Promote Professional Behavior In a Design Class


Student teams are commonly used in engineering classes to integrate learning of teamwork, design, and analytic skills. Learning is greatly enhanced when the teams and individuals exhibit professional behaviors. However, not all students embody these behaviors. This case study examines curricular elements that promoted professional behaviors in a design class at University of Idaho. The study used staged surveys, coded student assignments, questionnaires, and student prioritization of responses to substantiate findings. Our research question is:

“What factors within this design class promoted professional team behaviors and why?”

The data suggests that the interrelated functioning of three curricular elements was the most significant factor in promoting professional behavior. The three curricular elements were a challenging team project, teaching and use of teamwork processes, and accountability coupled with coaching. Though the case employed specific implementations of these elements, broader characteristics of these elements emerged. First, the challenging project necessitated the practice of team processes and provided strong motivation. Second, effective teamwork processes exhibited the characteristics of direct applicability to team goals and appropriate investment of effort for returned value. Third, accountability with coaching appeared to be a strong combination to keep students’ behavior professional and to keep teams on track with the project.

1. Introduction

Student teams are commonly used to teach design skills side-by-side with teamwork skills. Our experience with these classes is that while many teams produce excellent results other teams unravel. On the low performing teams it seems all learning outcomes are lost. Our assumption is that student choices and ensuing behaviors are the principle determining factors on whether a team blossoms or collapses. If the students choose professional behaviors—that is they are punctual, interactive, collaborative, engaged, complete tasks on time to specified quality levels, etc.—the teamwork will most likely be solid.

At the University of Idaho we teach a sophomore design class where one of the primary objectives is learning to work in teams. To improve learning in teams, new methods and curricular elements were introduced and tested in the class for four consecutive semesters. The intent of this case study is to determine which of these methods and elements are truly important and why. Our question thus is:

“What factors within this design class promoted professional team behaviors?”

Zemke, S., & Elger, D. (2006, June), Curricular Elements That Promote Professional Behavior In A Design Class Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--119

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