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Design Argumentation on Multidisciplinary Teams: An Analysis of Engineering Design Team Communication Effectiveness

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

Design in Engineering Education Division (DEED) Technical Session 10

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education Division (DEED)

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Paper Authors


Robert E. Curtis, Jr. P.E. Pennsylvania State University

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Mr. Curtis holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Lehigh University and a Master of Science degree in Secondary Education from Mount Saint Mary College. He received his Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Pennsylvania State University in December 2022. His research interests include design communication by interdisciplinary teams. His professional career includes positions as an engineer in manufacturing and consulting, as well as teaching experience in secondary engineering, mathematics, and science. He also holds a Professional Engineer license in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

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Catherine G. P. Berdanier Pennsylvania State University Orcid 16x16

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Catherine G.P. Berdanier is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Pennsylvania State University. She earned her B.S. in Chemistry from The University of South Dakota, her M.S. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering and her PhD in Engineering Education from Purdue University. Her research expertise lies in characterizing graduate-level attrition, persistence, and career trajectories; engineering writing and communication; and methodological development.

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Modern engineering challenges are complex and require multidisciplinary teams of designers to successfully solve them and communicate these designs to stakeholders. While past literature has documented how engineering students use rhetorical features as they prototype and design, fewer scholars have investigated how students use disciplinary language while working in teams, and in particular multidisciplinary design teams. As many capstone engineering experiences seek to embed authentic multidisciplinary experiences into their settings, instructors may wonder whether or how multidisciplinarity affects the outcomes of the engineering projects or the quality of the final design pitch. To this end, in this study, we analyzed design pitches from n = 56 senior-level multidisciplinary engineering design teams at a large research-intensive university using a framework to evaluate the quality of disciplinary discourse adapted from prior literature. After using qualitative content analysis methods to analyze the data, we calculated an argumentation score for each group comprising the mean disciplinary discourse score of the group over the occurrences of disciplinary communication. Then, this score was examined in relationship to the disciplinary diversity of each team captured by a quantitative measure of the diversity of engineering disciplines represented in the group. Results show that for the teams involved in this study, disciplinary diversity of design teams did not have a statistically significant effect on design argumentation quality, such that this factor does not need to be considered in future research. This paper also presents a novel framework to assess the quality of argumentation in design pitches that could be useful for future research or practice applications.

Curtis, Jr., R. E., & Berdanier, C. G. P. (2023, June), Design Argumentation on Multidisciplinary Teams: An Analysis of Engineering Design Team Communication Effectiveness Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--42938

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