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Engineering Students' Perceptions Of Attitude Changes In Teamwork

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

FPD3 -- Professional Issues for First-Year Courses

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.577.1 - 11.577.12



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Paper Authors

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Dwight Tolliver University of Tennessee

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Lauren Hines University of Tennessee

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J. Roger Parsons University of Tennessee-Knoxville

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

Introduction and Literature Review:

The ability to work efficiently on technical teams is an essential skill for engineers. In recognition of the importance of this skill, many engineering education programs have added technical team experiences to their curriculum. This study investigated how students perceive the importance and utility of these experiences by exploring the ways in which students’ attitudes toward group work changed through experiences on technical teams. For the purposes of this study, the terms “team” and “group” will be used interchangeably.

ABET, the accreditation board for university programs in applied sciences, computing, engineering, and technology, identified communication skills and teaming as two important qualities students should develop during their engineering education. It is no longer enough for engineering students to graduate with technical skills and sufficient knowledge. They must have the skills and abilities necessary to communicate effectively and function adequately on interdisciplinary teams1, 2. As a result, many engineering programs now devote a portion of their curriculum to team experiences and building communication skills. These activities are designed not only to equip students with the interpersonal skills that they will need in their career, but to build self-efficacy and help increase retention3.

The Engage program at the University of Tennessee was designed to be an integrated curriculum that would “continue to teach essential skills, using techniques that improve problem-solving ability, teach design methodology, and teach teamwork and communication skills,”4. The Engage program is a 12 credit hour, two-semester course that all first year students are required to take. The program was piloted in the 1997-1998 academic year and has continued to grow and develop.

One of the key components of the program is team projects. Students are placed into four to six member teams and given various projects throughout the course of the year. The teams are formed based on several different factors. First, personality type is considered, as identified by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, so that each team has members with various personality types. Next, ACT scores and gender are considered. Historically, higher ACT scores were grouped together and lower ACT scores were grouped together. Teams were arranged so that those teams with female members had at least two females in the group.

The team projects correspond with the concepts and skills students are learning in their classes and working with in their homework assignments. Through these projects the students are presented with opportunities to practice oral and written reports, project planning, and idea generation and selection. They are also presented with concepts such as team rules and roles, communication skills, and group dynamics4. These concepts are presented throughout the year, along with exercises and prompts for team discussion. For example, when group norms are discussed, the teams are led in an exercise where they list the norms that exist for their team. Graduate students in Counseling Psychology travel between teams, facilitating discussion and group processing. Team time is

Tolliver, D., & Hines, L., & Parsons, J. R. (2006, June), Engineering Students' Perceptions Of Attitude Changes In Teamwork Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--541

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