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Improved Team Function: Student-Driven Team Rules and Consequences

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Teams and Teamwork in Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.829.1 - 22.829.11



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Paper Authors


Peter J. Shull Pennsylvania State University, Altoona

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Peter J. Shull is Professor of Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University. After a successful career in the technical field of Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE), and having worked at the prestigious Nation Institute of Standards and Technology, Dr. Shull made the decision to return to academia and began his career in education. From the first day, Dr. Shull noted an apparent lack of sound educational practice at the higher educational level. This is reflected in a statement made by Dr. Shull’s Ph.D. advisor regarding teaching—“If you know the material well, you’ll be a great teacher!” Recognizing that one’s degree of knowledge of a subject has no relationship to their understanding of pedagogy or their ability to apply it, over the past 12 years, Dr. Shull has maintained an active focus on sound pedagogy as related to engineering education. These efforts have been divided into understanding pedagogical theory and the pragmatic application into the classroom. His primary areas of focus are the ethics of caring, self-determination, and the connection of life skills to improved student learning.

He has authored numerous publications in the field of pedagogy and the technical area of NDE including the popular textbook entitled Nondestructive Evaluation: Theory, Technique, and Applications (Marcel Dekker, 2001), he is a Fulbright Scholar (Argentina—2006), and is a member of the American Society of Nondestructive Testing, the American Society of Engineering Educators and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. He received a B.S. degree (1982) in mechanical engineering from Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and a M.S. (1992) and a Ph.D. (1996) degree from The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.

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Carla Firetto The Pennyslvania State University

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Carla Firetto is a Ph.D. Candidate in Educational Psychology at Penn State. Her main interests are in the integration of multiple texts and the comprehension of multiple representations. She is currently also teaching as an adjunct faculty at Bucknell University.

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L.J. Passmore Pennsylvania State University, Altoona

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Improved Team Function: Student-Driven Team Rules and ConsequencesThe ability to effectively work in teams is a highly desirable quality in engineering graduates.Building these skills is essential to training students to participate successfully in the workplace.Further, given that much of engineering is taught in a team environment, how well the teamfunctions is directly related to student learning of the course material.Creating functional student teams requires understanding and agreement of acceptable behaviorsand levels of performance, clear consequences for violations, and buy-in from the individualteam members. However, in practice team rules are rarely articulated, but a commonunderstanding is simply assumed. As a consequence, acceptable behaviors are first addressed ordiscussed when they already have been violated. By then, the acceptable behaviors and inparticular the consequences of violation of the behaviors become ad hoc. Decisions onconsequences commonly become subjective based on personality issues and not measurementsof the actual infractions. This is where team functionality disintegrates or fractionalizes andoften requires outside (faculty) intervention.Team dysfunction creates two significant consequences. First, students do not learn thenecessary elements to function well in a team. While college students can most often completeassigned tasks with even low functioning teams, they will not be able to do so in an industrialenvironment. Second, student learning of the topical material that the team is working on isreduced. The most common version of this is when a few members or an individual decide totake over the completion of the assignments and disregard the input of other members. Thiscreates a situation with a few students learning the material (those who completed theassignment) and the rest relying on group grading.This work reports on the effect of student-driven team boundaries and concomitant consequenceson team functioning and individual responsibility to the team. To increase both studentunderstanding of the rules and consequences and increase buy-in, at the beginning of thesemester, students develop their own set of rules. The methodologies used are student reflections,survey, and instructor observations from multiple engineering design classes. The classes rangefrom first year with little to no team experience to third year students who have many classesrequiring team work. 

Shull, P. J., & Firetto, C., & Passmore, L. (2011, June), Improved Team Function: Student-Driven Team Rules and Consequences Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18110

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