Asee peer logo

Dramatizing Engineering Education: The Performance Of Teamwork

Download Paper |


2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary and Liberal Education

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.564.1 - 12.564.12



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


April Kedrowicz University of Utah

visit author page

April Kedrowicz is the Director of the Center for Engineering Leadership at the University of Utah. Dr. Kedrowicz received her BS and MA degrees in Organizational Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and her Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Utah.

visit author page


Bob Nelson University of Utah

visit author page

Bob Nelson is the Chair of the Department of Theatre at the University of Utah.

visit author page

Download Paper |

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

Dramatizing Engineering Education: The Performance of Teamwork


Engineering education is now characterized by innovative approaches to instruction. Collaboration between (often disparate) disciplines is becoming increasingly common to meet the educational needs of engineering undergraduates. ABET’s EC 2000 has shifted the focus from technical educational outcomes to encompass professional educational outcomes, including the ability to communicate and function effectively on multidisciplinary teams. As a result, greater emphasis is placed on teaching students the teamwork principles and associated communication competencies necessary for a healthy and productive team experience. Interestingly, teamwork pedagogy has not occupied a prominent position in the engineering education literature, despite this emphasis on teaming in the classroom and industry. The purpose of this paper is to highlight one specific, innovative approach to teaming instruction that requires collaboration from faculty in three different disciplines, namely, communication, drama, and engineering. Representatives from each department work with undergraduate engineering students to teach them team dynamics through writing of vignettes appropriate for the particular curriculum, and through performance, employing a range of techniques such as role-play, role switching, alter-egoing, etc. A description of this educational approach is provided, followed by a summary of students’ reactions to the instruction. Finally, faculty members’ reflect on their experience working as part of a multidisciplinary team and offer recommendations for implementation.


The field of engineering demands collaboration to solve today’s complex problems. Gone are the days of working alone in a lab. Today’s engineer needs to be able to function as a productive team member, and to accomplish this objective, the engineer needs to be a competent communicator. As a result, much of the focus of communication instruction within the engineering disciplines emphasizes effective informal communication within teams. In fact, a greater focus has been placed on “teaming” in the engineering education literature.

Engineering teaming research, in general, encompasses the following areas: (a) cooperative learning, (b) specific examples of using teams in the classroom, (c) the impact of gender (and other demographic variables) on team productivity, (d) common teaming deficiencies, and (e) approaches for assessing teamwork (i.e. grading or evaluating team projects). Although this literature is a valuable resource for instructors of teamwork, it fails to address team pedagogy. That is, of the essays which afford mention of team communication as an important aspect of effective professional development, none go on to explain how to teach students effective teamwork principles for the benefit of the project and team member relationships.i Often, the unfortunate reality of teamwork in the classroom (stemming from a lack of productive team

i For an exception, see Seat, E. and Lord, S. M., “Enabling Effective Engineering Teams: A Program for Teaching Interaction Skills,” Journal of Engineering Education, Oct. 1999, pp. 385-390.

Kedrowicz, A., & Nelson, B. (2007, June), Dramatizing Engineering Education: The Performance Of Teamwork Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2180

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015