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Developing and Piloting a Survey to Assess Dissatisfaction of Women in Student Teams

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

First-year Programs: Teams and Teamwork

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Laura Hirshfield University of Michigan

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Laura Hirshfield is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Michigan. She received her B.S. from the University of Michigan and her Ph.D. from Purdue University, both in chemical engineering. She then transitioned into the engineering education field with postdoctoral positions at Oregon State University, Olin College of Engineering and University of Michigan. Her research interests lie in assessing and amending curricula to help students transition from undergraduate to professional practice.

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Robin Fowler University of Michigan

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Robin Fowler is a lecturer in the Program in Technical Communication at the University of Michigan. She enjoys serving as a "communication coach" to students throughout the curriculum, and she's especially excited to work with first year and senior students, as well as engineering project teams, as they navigate the more open-ended communication decisions involved in describing the products of open-ended design scenarios.

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This complete research paper will describe the development and piloting of a survey intending to explore the types and prevalence of dissatisfying experiences that women are having in student teams.

Student team experiences are an essential part of undergraduate studies, giving students a chance to work on authentic problems and develop teamwork and communication skills. However, if team experiences are not positive for students, consequences can range from students not properly learning material or developing skills, to students dropping out of the engineering major entirely. One common strategy that is employed to avoid dissatisfying team experiences is to make sure to pair students of any underrepresented identity group; in other words, to avoid isolating any female or URM students as the only member of their identity group on a team. However, a study of over 600 students participating in first-year engineering teams found that teams with only one woman are statistically more satisfied than teams with two or more women.

To explore this finding, 14 interviews were conducted with women about their first-year team experience, discussing how their gender and the gender makeup of their team impacted their team experience and what factors contributed to their satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, in their team. From those interviews, a codebook was developed outlining common themes that led to female students’ dissatisfaction in student teams; next, survey items were written that correspond to each code, in order to create an instrument that can be used for a wider population of students.

Piloting the resulting instrument includes the following steps. The pilot first includes a small group of students completing the survey via a “think aloud protocol,” allowing us to identify ambiguous wording and determine that students are interpreting items as they are intended. Next, the pilot includes presenting the survey to a focus group of women engineering students, discussing items with the research teams, to identify overlap amongst items. Following the pilot, the survey will be administered to second-year engineering students at our institution. This serves to collect a broader set of data that aids us in investigating team dynamics in students’ first-year engineering project teams and in understanding women’s dissatisfaction in that context. The final step of the pilot includes factor analysis of this data, with an item-analysis to better understand women’s dissatisfaction in this context.

By investigating the prevalence of dissatisfying team experiences that women are having, we will be able to determine how gender makeup of a team correlates with different elements of satisfaction, in order to ensure that team experiences are more positive for everyone.

Hirshfield, L., & Fowler, R. (2020, June), Developing and Piloting a Survey to Assess Dissatisfaction of Women in Student Teams Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34424

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