New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
In recent years, engineering schools have been inspired by accreditation bodies to incorporate multidisciplinary teaming in their curricula, and hence engineering schools have started to offer multidisciplinary capstone design courses. These courses give senior engineering students industry/client based projects in order to prepare them for today’s diverse educational and professional work place. In contrast to monodisciplinary capstones, multidisciplinary capstones create a diverse team of students from different engineering disciplines to design, build, and test proof of concepts for an industry based project. There is limited quantitative and qualitative research about multidisciplinary capstone’s performance. Hence to provide insight on multidisciplinary capstone’s performance, we explored the relationship between innovation (at the individual level and at the team level), psychological safety, knowledge transfer (application of one’s knowledge), and feedback from teammates, supervisors, and clients in a multidisciplinary engineering capstone course. We also investigated barriers that multidisciplinary capstone teams encountered to be innovative by observing the teams’ psychological safety behaviors. We hypothesised that multidisciplinary teams are likely to produce innovative solutions due to their functional diversity. However, functional diversity can also lead to conflict. According to literature, multidisciplinary teams have low psychological safety score because of their diversity. Low psychological safety affects team’s collaborative learning and efficiency. We investigated these factors and relationships in multidisciplinary capstone.
A mix of quantitative and qualitative methods were used in this study. We did an online survey with a 55% response rate. Moreover, we conducted 11 one-on-one interviews with students over a course of one year. Our questionnaire included a set of questions on innovation, psychological safety, knowledge use and transfer, and feedback. We examined our data to find relationships between these variables that can help us understand the dynamics of innovation in a multidisciplinary capstone course. We found correlations between the psychological safety score of teams and their collaborative learning and team efficiency. We also found that team innovation has a particularly strong correlation with psychological safety and is also significantly correlated with teammate’s feedback score.
Our research shows that multidisciplinary students are very innovative due to their knowledge diversity. However, there are certain barriers regarding the knowledge transfer, communication, and psychological safety that can be addressed during the development of such a course. Our research provides data-driven insights for development of an effective multidisciplinary capstone design course. We found statistics that support the idea that feedback, knowledge transfer, psychological safety, and the multidisciplinary nature of capstone are positively correlated to innovation at the team level and/or at the individual level. We also found that psychological safety of the team has a strong correlation with innovation. Our results show that low psychological safety inhibits innovative behaviors and high psychological safety encourages innovation.
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