Asee peer logo

Exploring the Use of the Competing Values Framework in Engineering Education

Download Paper |


2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Engineering Leadership Development: Theories, Models, Frameworks, and Tools

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development Division

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Rebecca Komarek University of Colorado Boulder

visit author page

Rebecca Komarek is the Assistant Director of the Idea Forge and Managing Director of Catalyze CU at the University of Colorado Boulder. She has taught in the areas of educational research and leadership development and served as a design team adviser. She is earning her PhD in engineering education with a focus on leadership development.

visit author page


Daniel Knight University of Colorado, Boulder

visit author page

Daniel W. Knight is the Program Assessment and Research Associate at Design Center (DC) Colorado in CU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering at the College of Engineering and Applied Science. He holds a B.A. in psychology from Louisiana State University, an M.S. degree in industrial/organizational psychology and a Ph.D. degree in education, both from the University of Tennessee. Dr. Knight’s research interests are in the areas of retention, program evaluation and teamwork practices in engineering education. His current duties include assessment, team development and education research for DC Colorado's hands-on initiatives.

visit author page


Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado, Boulder

visit author page

Angela Bielefeldt is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering (CEAE). She has served as the ABET assessment coordinator for her department since 2008. Professor Bielefeldt is the faculty director of the Sustainable By Design Residential Academic Program, a living-learning community where interdisciplinary students learn about and practice sustainability. Bielefeldt is also a licensed P.E. Professor Bielefeldt's research interests in engineering education include service-learning, sustainable engineering, social responsibility, ethics, and diversity.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Exploring the use of the competing values framework in engineering education

As shown by the rapid increase in engineering programs offering formal leadership training, the call for more engineers as leaders is being answered. Opportunities for engineers to be leaders will only grow with the need for technical judgement in economic, social, and environmental decision-making, according to the National Academy of Engineering, or NAE (2004). Furthermore, the NAE acknowledges that engineers with business and management expertise have more opportunities to serve as leaders.

In an effort to better understand leadership development in different settings, we turned to industry models of measuring leadership effectiveness, which can inform engineering education (Borrego et al., 2013). Behavioral complexity, or the capacity of an individual to utilize a variety of behaviors, each best suited to a given setting (Lawrence et al., 2009) is described through the Competing Values Framework (CVF) theory. This theory is the source for the Managerial Behavior Instrument (MBI), an empirically tested measure of leadership effectiveness (Quinn & Rohrbaugh, 1981; Lawrence et al., 2009). The CVF describes roles and behaviors in four quadrants: collaborate, create, control, and compete. The resulting information, however, is not dichotomous, but rather acknowledges that an individual can express strong behaviors in multiple quadrants leading to behavioral complexity, a correlate to higher leadership effectiveness.

This research involves administering a survey, which includes a modified MBI, to engineering students working in self-managed teams on a substantial project. Initial data comes from students in a curricular capstone design course. Subsequent data will include data from students working on a substantial project in a co-curricular setting. Each group will be surveyed twice by January, with the goal of exploring the level of complexity of student leadership behavior.

The MBI survey was modified where necessary to apply to an engineering classroom setting. Words used in the business context, such as “direct reports,” were changed to “teammates,” for example. In testing the psychometric properties of the new survey with introductory survey respondents, we determined the new instrument to be reliable (Cronbach’s alpha values for each of the four leadership quadrants ranged from 0.765 to 0.828) and to exhibit initial convergent validity (Pearson’s correlation with significance of less than or equal to .01 for 94 percent of intra-instrument expected correlations).

The paper will contain data from introductory and mid-year surveys from students in a mechanical engineering capstone design (n~240) as well as in the Engineers Without Borders student group (n~40). It will include comparisons between individual behavioral complexity of students at different points in time as well as between teams in each different setting. The research team will further explore how student demographics and previous experiences have influenced their levels of behavioral complexity.


Borrego, M., Karlin, J., McNair, L., & Beddoes, K. (2013). Team effectiveness theory from industrial and organizational psychology applied to engineering student project teams: A research review. Journal of Engineering Education, 102(4), 472–512.

Lawrence, K. A., Lenk, P., & Quinn, R. E. (2009). Behavioral complexity in leadership: The psychometric properties of a new instrument to measure behavioral repertoire. Leadership Quarterly, 20, 87–102.

National Academy of Engineering. (2004). The engineer of 2020: Visions of engineering in the new century. The National Academies Press.

Quinn, R., & Rohrbaugh, J. (1981). A competing values approach to organizational effectiveness. Public Productivity Review, 5(2), 122–140.

Komarek, R., & Knight, D., & Bielefeldt, A. R. (2017, June), Exploring the Use of the Competing Values Framework in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28343

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015