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Improving Learning Productivity and Teamwork Skills in Freshman Engineering Students through Conative Understanding

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

FPD 10: Teamwork

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.717.1 - 24.717.13



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Paper Authors

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Elizabeth A Adams Arizona State University

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Claire L. A. Dancz Arizona State University Orcid 16x16


Thomas P Seager Arizona State University

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Associate Professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, and Director of the Sustainable Energy and Environmental Decision Sciences (SEEDS) studio.

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Amy E. Landis Arizona State University

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Dr. Landis recently joined ASU in January 2012 as an Associate Professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. She began her career as an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, after having obtained her PhD in 2007 from the University of Illinois at Chicago under the supervision of Dr. Thomas L. Theis.

Dr. Landis’ research focuses on Sustainable Renewable Biomaterials and she is highly engaged in Innovations in Engineering Education. Learn more at

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Improving learning productivity and teamwork skills in freshman engineering students through conative understandingABET outcomes require that schools teach students how to function productively as part of amultidisciplinary team. This study analyzes the effectiveness of teaching students to understandtheir instinctive behavioral strengths in regards to teamwork activities with the hope that thisunderstanding leads to increased retention and persistence in engineering.In academia, and STEM fields especially, cognitive skills are most highly valued andconsistently rewarded. When students are instructed on team work, often affective skills (values,personality, and morals) are included to motivate students to be productive team members. Thisstudy introduces students to the concept of conation, or volition, to that part of the mind that isinstinctive and unchanging. By understanding innate behavioral problem solving skills it ishypothesized that students will perform more effectively by working in harmony with theirtalents rather than against them, and that this information can be especially impactful ingenerating successful teams.Students complete an on-line assessment of their instinctive behavioral strengths called theKolbe ATM. Everyone’s results are shared with the class and a variety of teams are formed totest strength combinations: (1) students with similar strengths (inertia team), (2) students withconflicting problem solving approaches (conflict team), and (3) students with a synergistic mixof talents (synergy team).Students perform team activities in the strength combinations thatrequire them to work together, and they watch each other to see whether they really exhibit thesestrengths. The instructor facilitates a class discussion about why teams with combinations ofcertain strengths succeed and others don't.Students are not graded on these initial team activities; they are used to highlight the importanceof considering natural talents when working with other people and forming teams. Final projectteams are then constructed with this new knowledge and require teams to design, construct, andrace a solar powered car. This final project is a significant portion of the students’ total grade forthe course and serves as one assessment method for the success of the teamIt is hypothesized that incorporation of conative awareness (of themselves and their peers) willresult in improved team performance and satisfaction with team experiences. Student satisfactionwill be measured with a self-report satisfaction assessment at the end of the semester to gaugethe success of the team activities and conative-based team structures. Ultimately, introducingthese concepts at the freshman level is intended to assist students with forming strongrelationships with solid, team-based foundations that have a positive impact on student retentionand persistence in engineering.

Adams, E. A., & Dancz, C. L. A., & Seager, T. P., & Landis, A. E. (2014, June), Improving Learning Productivity and Teamwork Skills in Freshman Engineering Students through Conative Understanding Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20609

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