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Engineering Leadership And Teamwork Development Through Experiential Learning

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.438.1 - 6.438.9



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Paper Authors

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Jessica Matson

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Kenneth Hunter

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

Session 3242

Engineering Leadership and Teamwork Development Through Experiential Learning

Kenneth W. Hunter, Sr., Jessica O. Matson Tennessee Technological University


The development of teamwork skills has become an established goal of engineering education, and in recent years the development of leadership skills has begun to receive more attention. Experiential learning programs, including activities such as ropes courses and adventure training, have been extensively used in both the corporate and military sectors for teamwork and leadership development. This paper describes a framework that has been used to design experiential learning programs for developing teamwork and leadership skills in undergraduate industrial engineering students. The framework combines elements of traditional experiential learning activities, ropes courses, and the U. S. Army’s Leadership Reaction Course in a series of team exercises designed to address specific teamwork and leadership issues. Isomorphic framing is used to present each exercise in a scenario that relates directly to the engineering classroom or workplace, and debriefing sessions are structured to reinforce the transfer of knowledge between the exercise and the classroom or workplace. The framework is flexible and can be easily adapted to a variety of groups, locations, and periods. Examples of different programs and a typical exercise are included. Initial implementations of programs based on this framework have been quite successful, with positive feedback from students, faculty, and industrial advisory board members.

1. Introduction

Current accreditation standards require engineering programs to demonstrate not only that their graduates have the appropriate mathematical, scientific, and technical knowledge and skills but also that they can function in teams1. Results of employer surveys and interviews indicate, however, that the ability to work on a team is an important skill that is lacking in many of today's engineering graduates2,3. The development of teamwork skills is thus a critical issue in engineering education.

Likewise, the development of leadership skills is beginning to be seen as another key element in the non-technical side of engineering education. With rapidly increasing technological change, engineers must take stronger leadership roles in industrial and government organizations. Participants at a recent National Academy of Engineering workshop on the changing nature of engineering practice recommended for the future of engineering education that engineering schools “broaden their curricula” and “make engineering leadership a principal focus.” They cited the need for engineers “who can lead real and virtual teams”4. Landis5 has concluded that interaction with peers, interaction with faculty, and involvement in leadership roles with student organizations are among the critical behaviors needed by successful engineering students.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Matson, J., & Hunter, K. (2001, June), Engineering Leadership And Teamwork Development Through Experiential Learning Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9200

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