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How Did We End up Together? Evaluating Success Levels of Student-formed vs. Instructor-formed Capstone Teams

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Design as a Social Process: Teams and Organizations

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.852.1 - 26.852.12



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Paper Authors


Bridget M. Smyser Northeastern University

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Dr. Smyser is an Assistant Academic Specialist and the Lab Director for the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Northeastern University.

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Kris Jaeger-Helton Northeastern University

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Beverly Kris Jaeger, PhD is on the full-time faculty in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Northeastern University teaching Simulation Modeling and Analysis, Facilities Planning, and Human-Machine Systems. She also serves as a Technical Faculty Advisor for Senior Capstone Design and graduate-level Challenge Projects in Northeastern’s Gordon Engineering Leadership Program. Dr. Jaeger has been the recipient of numerous awards in engineering education for both teaching and mentoring and has been involved in several engineering educational research initiatives through ASEE and beyond.

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How Did We End up Together? Evaluating Success Levels of Student-formed vs Instructor- formed Capstone TeamsEffective team functioning is one of the key ABET criteria and is also essential for successfulcapstone design work. One teamwork rubric in particular, the VALUE rubric created by theAssociation of American Colleges and Universities, provides a well-vetted method for assessingteamwork. This rubric focuses on key factors such as contributions of team members, fostering aconstructive team climate, and response to conflict. There are several other team-oversightguidelines in existence; however, the best method for guiding successful teamwork is still thesubject of debate, with literature examples ranging from traditional classroom instruction toworkshops and software-based tools. In the Senior Capstone Design course at UnnamedUniversity, no explicit instruction in team functioning is provided at present. Teams are typicallystudent-formed when possible; however, the course coordinator needs to ensure that teamformation outcomes align with the course constraints –such as of number of projects, number offaculty advisors, and team size of 4-5 students– and must form teams when students are unableto. In this work, the two types of teams, student-formed and instructor-formed, are examined tosee if there are any differences in terms of design quality, team functioning, prototype score, andfinal grade. Assessment tools include both the VALUE teamwork rubric as well as the validatedPrototype Design Scoring System previously developed by one of the authors. The VALUErubric has been selected specifically for Capstone assessment because it focuses on highfunctioning, lifelong learning, and team climate, and it has also been highly validated. These arethe same reasons that it is being adopted in other campuswide initiatives at Unnamed University.After each of the three capstone presentations scheduled throughout the capstone experience,both student-formed and instructor-formed groups will be recruited and assessed. Meetings withthe group members specifically to assess the level of teamwork functioning using the VALUERubric will occur approximately every two weeks. While this research is ongoing, initial workindicates that improvements will be more noticeable for the instructor-formed groups. TheCapstone courses are currently starting and the framework for this research is in place to begininterventions and data collection. Findings will inform guidelines for capstone team formationand future team coaching. Results will help determine what type of team-formation protocol isrecommended and the coaching intervention may improve the performance of potentially low-functioning teams.

Smyser, B. M., & Jaeger-Helton, K. (2015, June), How Did We End up Together? Evaluating Success Levels of Student-formed vs. Instructor-formed Capstone Teams Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24189

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