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Evaluating a Communication Framework for Team Effectiveness in a First-Year Design and Communication Course

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Conference

2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015

ISBN

978-0-692-50180-1

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Technical Session 4: The Best of the All: FPD Best Papers

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

13

Page Numbers

26.689.1 - 26.689.13

DOI

10.18260/p.24026

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/24026

Download Count

79

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Paper Authors

biography

Genevieve Hoffart University of Calgary

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Genevieve is completing her honours degree under the supervision of Dr. Thomas O'Neill at the University of Calgary looking at the influence processes in teams and will be starting her Master's in the fall. She has been the project lead on the partnership with the Schulich School of Engineering for the past three years during which time her focus has been on improving team dynamics and maximizing the student experience. In addition co-developing the communication training framework that has now been applied to over 2500 students campus wide, Genevieve has personally facilitated many of the training sessions. Her goal is to continue working on developing applicable tools to improve the functioning of both student and industry teams in institutions and organizations across North America.

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biography

Nicole Lynn Larson University of Calgary

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Nicole is completing her final year of her Masters in Industrial Organizational psychology at the University of Calgary under the supervision of Dr. Thomas O’Neill. Nicole has been working with the Schulich School of Engineering for the past two years. During this period she has been involved in several initiatives such as assessing student learning and engagement, implementing systems for peer evaluations, and leading teamwork training sessions. She is currently conducting research on team learning processes in engineering student project teams. Additionally, she has co-developed a framework for measuring and interpreting an array of team dynamics. An online assessment tool has been created based on this framework which allows teams to diagnose and improve the "health" of their team. She is passionate about her area of research and plans to continue conducting research on factors that contribute to effective teamwork.

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biography

Tom O'Neill University of Calgary

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Tom is a Professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology and leading expert in the areas of team dynamics, virtual teams, conflict management, personality, and assessment. He is director of the Individual and Team Performance Lab and the Virtual Team Performance, Innovation, and Collaboration Lab at the University of Calgary, which was built through a $500K Canada Foundation for Innovation Infrastructure Grant. He also holds operating grants of over $300K to conduct leading-edge research on virtual team effectiveness. Over the past 10 years Tom has worked with organizations in numerous industries including oil and gas, healthcare, technology, and venture capitals. He is currently engaged with the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary to train, develop, and cultivate soft-skill teamwork competencies in order to equip graduates with strong interpersonal and communication capabilities.

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Matthew James Walter McLarnon University of Western Ontario

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Matthew's primary research interest focuses on promoting and developing resiliency to commonly encountered adverse workplace events (e.g., getting fired, being passed over for promotion, losing a major client, etc.). Additionally, his current interests focus on performance appraisal, personnel selection, and research methods and quantitative analysis in organizational behavior research.

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Marjan Eggermont University of Calgary

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Marjan Eggermont is the current Associate Dean (Student Affairs) and a Senior Instructor and a faculty member at the University of Calgary in the Mechanical and Manufacturing department of the Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary, Canada. She teaches graphical, written and oral communication in their first Engineering Design and Communication course taught to all 650 incoming engineering students.
With co-editors Tom McKeag (San Francisco) and Norbert Hoeller (Toronto) she co-founded and designs ZQ, an online journal to provide a platform to showcase the nexus of science and design using case studies, news and articles (zqjournal.org).
As an instructor, she was one of the recipients of The Allan Blizzard Award, a Canadian national teaching award for collaborative projects that improve student learning in 2004. In 2005, she was one of the recipients of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Curriculum Innovation Award. She is - as PIC II chair - currently a board member of ASEE.

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Bob Brennan University of Calgary

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Bill Rosehart University of Calgary

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Abstract

Evaluating a Communication Framework for Team Effectiveness in a First-Year Design and Communication CourseTeams are the foundational building blocks of organizations, utilized to derive increasinglyinnovative solutions to complex problems in order to maintain a competitive market advantage1.As such, the development of teamwork based skills has been identified as a critical competencyin engineering education required to prepare graduates for team-based projects in industry. Whilemost engineering faculty have relatively effective methods in place to teach students’ technicalskills (e.g., design fundamentals, problem analysis, etc.), it is sometimes challenging to findsuitable tools to support communication and teamwork skill development. In response to thischallenge, a collaborative partnership between the psychology and engineering department at alarge Canadian university yielded a theoretical-based communication technique applied to theengineering curriculum in order to enhance team effectiveness.While teams stimulate an innovative environment, the interdependence of individuals leads to anincreased risk of conflict between members2. Teams literature has identified three types ofconflict that can arise3: task conflict (TC), relationship conflict (RC) and process conflict (PC).Briefly, TC involves different perspectives and opinions about the task, RC refers to perceivedinterpersonal incompatibilities (i.e., personality clashes), and PC involves discordant views ofroles, responsibilities, and/or task timelines. The aforementioned collaboration discovered anideal conflict combination, or profile, linked to higher performance and positive team dynamics.Specifically, teams that engaged in task-related debates (i.e., high TC) while being unhinderedby interpersonal tensions and logistical disagreements (i.e., low RC & PC), performed best.Thus, the goal of teamwork education might be advanced by encouraging this ideal conflictprofile.Reaching this ideal profile may lie in a communication framework known as constructivecontroversy4 (CC). CC requires the openness to new perspectives, challenging of assumptions,and identification of optimal courses of action5. Adapting this theoretical foundation, we createdan easy to remember acronym, SUIT, that was the basis for a 90-minute training sessionadministered to students. SUIT stands for Share, Understand, Integrate and Team decision.Specifically, teams are taught to share all unique information; understand information throughcritical questioning; integrate concepts to create innovative solutions; and agree on a teamdecision to implement a plan. The SUIT training session included an informational overview,followed by a structured role play, a decision making exercise, and team charters.We report on the results of a study evaluating the effectiveness of CC-based training in twocohorts of a first-year design and communication course. Contrasting 195 untrained (n=577individuals) and 177 trained (n=566 individuals) teams found an approximately 20% increase inthe number of teams in the ideal conflict profile. Additionally, trained teams reportedsignificantly higher cooperative conflict management, perceived innovation efficacy, andcollective team effectiveness, strongly supporting the inclusion of the SUIT technique in thefirst-year curriculum to improve team functioning. Taken together, this evidence-based techniqueoffers a valuable pedagogic foundation that can prepare students for the team-based workprevalent in organizations and holds potential as a universal application to various levels inengineering education. References1. Kozlowski, S. W. J., & Bell, B. S. 2003. Work groups and teams in organizations. In W. C. Borman, D. R. Ilgen, & R. J. Klimoski (Eds.), Handbook of psychology (Vol. 12): Industrial and Organizational Psychology: 333-375). New York: Wiley.2. Deutsch, M. 2006. Cooperation and competition. In M. Deutsch, P. T. Coleman, & E. C. Marcus (Eds.), The handbook of conflict resolution: Theory and practice (2nd ed.): 23-42. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.3. Jehn, K. A. 1995. A multimethod examination of the benefits and detriments of intragroup conflict. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40: 256-283.4. Tjosvold, D. 1985. Implications of controversy research for management. Journal of Management, 11: 21–37.5. Tjosvold, D. 2008. Constructive controversy for management education: Developing committed, open-minded researchers. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 7: 73-85.

Hoffart, G., & Larson, N. L., & O'Neill, T., & McLarnon, M. J. W., & Eggermont, M., & Brennan, B., & Rosehart, B. (2015, June), Evaluating a Communication Framework for Team Effectiveness in a First-Year Design and Communication Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24026

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