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Investigating Team Roles Within Long-Term Project-Based Learning Experiences

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Design in Multidisciplinary Learning Environment

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

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Paper Authors


Amy Dunford NYU Tandon School of Engineering

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Amy K. Dunford is the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program Manager at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Amy earned a master's degree in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering from the University of California, Irvine and a master's in Engineering Education from Purdue University. Amy specializes in project-based learning management and curriculum development, and has prior experience as a first-year engineering laboratory course developer and instructor at UC Irvine.

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Edwing A. Medina New York University Tandon School of Engineering

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Venezuelan-American, career-changer STEM Education researcher, Institutional Research, Assessment, and Accreditation.
I am passionate about STEM teaching and learning, STEM modeling and multiple representations, and STEM discourse by/for English Language learners, historically under-represented groups.
I create, analyze, and help make data visualizations actionable, so that they address under-representation by key constituencies in STEM Education, academic equity, and social justice issues.
I bring a 10-year experience from multi-national corporate media entertainment, 10 years working with K-12 students and families interested (or developing their interest) in STEM and pre-health professions, a STEM Eduction researcher for 10+ years, and 5 years of experience in institutional research, data visualization, assessment, and institutional and program accreditation.

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Jack Bringardner New York University Tandon School of Engineering Orcid 16x16

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Jack Bringardner is the Assistant Dean for Academic and Curricular Affairs at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. He is also an Assistant Professor in the General Engineering Department and Civil Engineering Department where he teaches the First-Year Engineering Program course Introduction to Engineering and Design. He is the Director of Vertically Integrated Projects at NYU. His Vertically Integrated Projects course is on Smart Cities Technology with a focus on transportation. His primary focus is developing curriculum, mentoring students, and engineering education research, particularly for project-based curriculum, first-year engineering, and transportation. He is active in the American Society for Engineering Education and is the Webmaster for the ASEE First-Year Programs Division and the First-Year Engineering Experience Conference. He is affiliated with the Transportation Engineering program in the NYU Civil and Urban Engineering Department. He is the advisor for NYU student chapter of the Institute for Transportation Engineers.

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This evidence-based practice paper investigates students’ perceptions of and discourse surrounding their team roles on a multidisciplinary project-based learning (PBL) team and if/how those views and enactments change over time. This study also examines how designated student leaders’ self-perceptions of their team role compare to their peers’ assessment of their leadership. Analysis of the study’s perception and discourse data will consider participants’ discipline, gender, ethnicity/race, and academic year. From this, we aim to understand how leadership on PBL student teams is established, enacted, and evolves over time, and what factors may influence such development.

While many engineering education programs have first-year cornerstone and final-year capstone project experiences, the middle years tend to lack similar multidisciplinary and long-term team project experiences. The Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program at a large urban university encompasses teams of students – from various academic years and disciplines – who are advised by faculty to engage on long-term and large-scale projects. The VIP Model is aimed directly at engaging students during the middle years of engineering education and maintaining their engagement on a project of their choice for at least 3 consecutive semesters, honing technical and professional skills. The VIP Model is an evidence-based approach for multidisciplinary project-based learning that is active at 40 institutions around the world. Long-term student engagement affords each VIP Team the time and space to develop an organizational structure. Over this extended period of time, students also have the opportunity to establish, enact, and change leadership roles. This study focuses on the subset of VIP Teams categorized as Design Competition VIP Teams. These VIP Teams participate in annual intercollegiate competitions that are hosted by, sponsored by, and/or affiliated with professional organizations or societies (e.g., SAE, NASA, ASCE). These VIP Teams are generally the largest teams that have formal team roles and student leadership structures (in contrast to VIP Teams with faculty-guided leadership).

BelbinⓇ defined (and provided discourse examples of) a team role as a particular behavioral preference while performing tasks with other team members, distinguishing it from a functional role (the operational knowledge and technical skills relevant to performing a task). This distinction allows for the possibility that a group may be composed of several team members with the same functional role and different team role(s). This study employs the BelbinⓇ Team Role Self-Perception Inventory (TRSPI), the Observers’ Assessment Sheets (OAS), and discourse analysis of video-recorded Design Competition VIP Team meetings at several time points to investigate students’ perceptions and enactments of their and their peers’ designated and explicit team role(s) and how these may change over time. Comparing collected survey and discourse data over time to participants’ demographic survey data will make possible a greater understanding of how these perceptions and discourse vary with respect to discipline, academic year, race/ethnicity, and gender. The goal of this study is to understand how students develop and enact their team roles, how peers view designated leaders' team roles, and whether these observations are related to demographic and academic backgrounds.

Dunford, A., & Medina, E. A., & Bringardner, J. (2021, July), Investigating Team Roles Within Long-Term Project-Based Learning Experiences Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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