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Full Paper: Exploring the Influence of Team Gender Composition During Conceptual Brainstorming Activities

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Proceedings of the 2020 ASEE PSW Section Conference, canceled


Davis, California

Publication Date

April 30, 2020

Start Date

April 30, 2020

End Date

October 10, 2020

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Grace Gius California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo

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Grace Gius is a third year undergraduate industrial engineering student at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo. She is an undergraduate researcher in CREATE (Critical Research in Engineering and Technology Education) within the Mechanical Engineering Department and in SolCook developing an insulated solar electric cooker within the Physics Department.

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Ahmed Osman


Maggie Rose Nevrly Cal Poly SLO

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Mechanical Engineering student with a concentration in Energy Resources interested in engineering education and social justice.

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Benjamin David Lutz California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Ben Lutz is an Assistant Professor of Design in Mechanical Engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Dr. Lutz has a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech, and his research has focused on students’ personal and professional development in engineering as well as student perceptions of learning. He is currently conducting research on student experiences in the school-to-work transition, conceptual understanding in engineering mechanics courses (e.g., statics, dynamics), as well as critical work on diversity, equity, and inclusion in engineering education. He is the leader of the CREATE (Critical Research in Engineering And Technology Education) research group at Cal Poly and works with undergraduate researchers in different engineering disciplines who share these interests and who are currently exploring a range of engineering education research methodologies.

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Design activities represent an important aspect of undergraduate engineering education and preliminary and conceptual phases can have substantial downstream impacts on decision making. To improve engineering design outcomes for students it is vital that initial stages of design activities are conducted in ways that promote equity and address issues of power and privilege. While the influence of team gender composition has been studied in engineering design project-based settings, most work has investigated these phenomena over the course of a semester or academic year. As a result, relatively less is understood about how gender composition affects the micro-level interactions that take place during various design activities. The purpose of this work in progress, then, is to explore the ways gender composition might impact brainstorming and ideation activities. We conducted six brainstorming sessions and follow up focus groups. In each group, we varied both the team gender composition as well as the structure of the brainstorming activity itself. Brainstorming sessions were audio-recorded and transcripts are qualitatively analyzed according to recommendations by Miles & Huberman (1994) for open coding procedures. As of this writing, analysis is being conducted and the codebook refined by the research team. But preliminary findings suggest that potential differences in the experiences of men and women during brainstorming. That is, women on male-dominant teams spoke up less and were less likely to contribute in equal proportions. At the same time, early findings suggest that when women make up at least half of the brainstorming team, interpersonal interactions become more supportive and create space for all participants to voice a wider range of ideas. Attending to the gender composition of an engineering team can impact the outcomes of conceptual and preliminary brainstorming activities. In particular, when more women were on a team, ideas were shared more freely and judgment was more likely to be withheld. For instructors, managing the gender composition while forming teams can help to create a more equitable team environment while potentially enhancing creative capacity within a team.

Gius, G., & Osman, A., & Nevrly, M. R., & Lutz, B. D. (2020, April), Full Paper: Exploring the Influence of Team Gender Composition During Conceptual Brainstorming Activities Paper presented at Proceedings of the 2020 ASEE PSW Section Conference, canceled, Davis, California.

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