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Effectiveness of Techniques to Develop and Assess the Teamwork Skills of First-year Engineering Students

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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


Jean Carlos Batista Abreu Elizabethtown College Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Batista is an Assistant Professor of Engineering at Elizabethtown College. He earned his Ph.D. and M.S.E. at the Johns Hopkins University, M.S. at the University of Puerto Rico, and B.S.E. at the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra, all in Civil Engineering.

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Brenda Read-Daily Elizabethtown College

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Dr. Brenda Read-Daily is an Associate Professor of Engineering at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania and a licensed professional engineer. She holds a BS in Civil Engineering from Bradley University, and a MS and PhD in Environmental Engineering from the University of Notre Dame.

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This Complete Evidence-Based Practice paper explores the advantages and impact of techniques used to improve teamwork in an Introduction to Engineering course. Teamwork and collaboration are essential skills in the engineering profession. A study surveying thousands of working engineers spanning eleven disciplines of engineering reports teamwork ranked highest as the ABET competency they implement [1]. In ABET’s revised 1-7 Outcomes, number 5 addresses teamwork explicitly as “an ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives.” [2]. However, teamwork is often challenging to effectively teach and assess. Specifically, first-year engineering students have limited experience effectively working on teams coming out of high school. Therefore, semester-long team-based projects with grades heavily weighted on team assignments often present challenges. In our Introduction to Engineering course we utilize techniques to improve teamwork including strategic team formation, peer assessment, project management skills development, self-awareness through the Gallup StrengthsFinder inventory [3], and conflict resolution instruction. We use CATME’s TeamMaker tool [4] to organize students into teams with diverse strengths and experiences, and similar schedules. For instance, we arrange for each group to include members with intermediate CAD and programming skill sets. Through coaching, students learn about their strengths and those of their team members, so they efficiently assign tasks with others who have different working and communication styles. Additionally, students complete team contracts and receive conflict resolution training to prevent and manage team conflicts. The CATME Peer Evaluation Tool is used to provide peer accountability and help students better understand their contributions to their team [5]. This research is taking place this fall semester with pre and post surveys of students’ perceptions of their communication and work styles as well as their teamwork skills. During the semester, we conduct peer evaluations at multiple weeks, including weeks 5, 9, and 14. We use Likert-scale surveys to gauge the students’ perception of their teamwork skills (at weeks 2 and 14). Additionally, we have students complete a survey where they rate the effectiveness of different strategies on the success of their team. Results from initial surveys on student perception indicate that they generally consider their teamwork communication skills to be strong and that they are adaptable to different leadership and working styles, with 93.6 % of the students reporting that they are comfortable with their ability to effectively communicate with their teammates, regardless their preferred communication styles. Most students (80.9 %) enjoy working in teams; however, about 59.6 % of the students are confident in their ability to organize a team, establish goals, plan tasks to meet objectives with a quality level, and resolve conflicts. Additionally, only 66.6 % of students who prefer to be team leaders comfortably delegate tasks and trust others. After the semester, we will examine student course evaluations to determine the students’ perception of how the course contributed to their understanding and development of teamwork skills. The results of this study will be used to identify best practices in facilitating diverse, inclusive, and successful teams.


[1] H. J. Passow, “Which ABET Competencies do engineering graduates find the most important in their work?,” Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 101, no. 1, pp. 95-118, 2012.

[2] ABET “Criteria for Accrediting Programs 2019-2020.” Internet: [Sept 26, 2019]

[3] T. Rath, StrengthsFinder 2.0, New York: Gallup Press, 2007.

[4] R. A. Layton, M. L. Loughry, M. W. Ohland and G. D. Ricco, "Design and validation of a web-based system for assigning members to teams using instructor-specified criteria.," Advances in Engineering Education, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 1-28, 2010.

[5] M. L. Loughry, M. W. Ohland and D. J. Woehr, "Assessing teamwork skills for assurance of learning using CATME team tools," Journal of Marketing Education, vol. 36, pp. 5-19, 2013.

Batista Abreu, J. C., & Read-Daily, B. (2020, June), Effectiveness of Techniques to Develop and Assess the Teamwork Skills of First-year Engineering Students Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34502

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