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Diverse Cross Functional Student Teams: A Teaching Tool For Enhanced Learning

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Motivating Students to Achieve

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.473.1 - 9.473.9



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Paper Authors

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Craig Turner

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Keith Johnson

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W. Andrew Clark

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


Cross-Functional Student Teams as a Teaching Tool for Enhanced Learning

W. A. Clark, K.V. Johnson and C.A. Turner East Tennessee State University, Johnson City


Traditional engineering and science teaching methodology has been to train like-minded students within the discipline of their respective majors. Curriculum time constraints, however, limit the number and nature of out of discipline elective courses. As a result, students are well trained within their respective fields of study but lack the breadth of experience in interacting with other diverse disciplines. Industry, particularly technology-based companies, has observed that solutions to problems have a greater probability of success when all interested parties (purchasing, innovation, marketing, sales, manufacturing, etc.) have input in developing a plan to achieve a desired corporate outcome. It is through this collective action of diverse disciplines that unique solutions are conceived. Many times breakthroughs in innovation and product development occur not through the actions of companies in direct competition but through new entrant companies by modifying technology currently residing in different markets and applications. The breakthrough occurs because the new entrants are not bound by the technology paradigms constraining innovation in their particular market arena. Our goal is to take the diversity lessons gleaned from industry and incorporate them into coursework that creates diverse cross-functional teams such that students learn the benefits of cross-discipline diversity. The College of Business and Technology at ETSU is itself a diverse blend of disciplines (Engineering Technology, Entrepreneurship, Human Nutrition, Marketing, Digital Media, etc) and several graduate and undergraduate courses residing in different departments within the college have intentional programs that encourage cross-discipline enrollment. This action is further facilitated through dual course listings between departments for the same course. Examples of diverse discipline teams will be discussed with attention to outcomes and challenges. Through this diverse cooperative program, students from the technology, business, applied human sciences and digital media disciplines gain a perspective for each other’s expertise and learn to develop teams with diverse skills to meet the increasing challenges for managing business and technology.


In industrial and service fields’ cross-functional teams are recognized for their ability to bring configurationally synergistic enhancement to the final desired outcome 1. The demonstrated ability to assimilate information from personnel with diverse backgrounds is recognized by human resource departments and students demonstrating this capability significantly increase their value in the job market. At East Tennessee State University, we have initiated programs and courses that demand interaction within cross-disciplinary teams. These programs have “Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society of Engineering Education”

Turner, C., & Johnson, K., & Clark, W. A. (2004, June), Diverse Cross Functional Student Teams: A Teaching Tool For Enhanced Learning Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13004

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