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Match or Mismatch: Engineering Faculty Beliefs about Communication and Teamwork versus Published Criteria

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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

Teaching Communication I

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.888.1 - 24.888.11



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Paper Authors


Marie C Paretti Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Marie C. Paretti is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she co-directs the Virginia Tech Engineering Communications Center (VTECC). Her research focuses on communication in engineering design, interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, design education, and gender in engineering. She was awarded a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to study expert teaching in capstone design courses, and is co-PI on numerous NSF grants exploring communication, design, and identity in engineering. Drawing on theories of situated learning and identity development, her work includes studies on the teaching and learning of communication, effective teaching practices in design education, the effects of differing design pedagogies on retention and motivation, the dynamics of cross-disciplinary collaboration in both academic and industry design environments, and gender and identity in engineering.

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Kelly J Cross Virginia Tech

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Ms. Cross earned her Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University in 2007. She earned her Master’s of Science in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Cincinnati in 2011. Ms. Cross is currently in the fourth year of the Engineering Education PhD program at Virginia Tech and involved with multiple educational research projects with faculty and graduate students. Her research interests include teamwork and communication skills, assessment, diversity, and identity construction.

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Holly M Matusovich Virginia Tech

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Dr. Holly Matusovich (co-PI) is an Assistant Professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Education. She has her doctorate in Engineering Education and her strengths include qualitative and mixed methods research study design and implementation. Her expertise includes motivation and related frameworks, using these frameworks broadly to study student engagement in learning, student recruitment into and retention within engineering programs and careers, faculty teaching practices and intersections of motivation and learning strategies.

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ASEE 2014 Abstract: LEES Division Match or Mismatch: Engineering Faculty Beliefs about Teaching and Learning Teamwork and Communication skills compared to Expert PanelsEngineering employers, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the engineeringaccreditation agency ABET continue to identify communication and teamwork skills as essentialfor engineering graduates going into professional practice. Yet, teamwork and communicationskills are typically isolated in sections of the engineering curriculum (i.e. design courses) despitethe recent emphasis on integrating professional skills throughout the curriculum. The desire forstudents to develop better professional skills has led to an increase in the number of teamprojects and communication assignments included within engineering courses. However,educational researchers and educators alike know comparatively little about the beliefs andvalues of current engineering faculty, or about how faculty epistemologies affect the approach toincorporate teamwork and communication skills into engineering courses. The purpose of thispaper is to compare and contrast the ways engineering faculty defines effective teamwork andcommunication skills and how these skills fit into engineering courses as compared to an expertpanel. Specifically, the paper summarizes the alignment of engineering faculty beliefs aboutteamwork and communication to value rubrics developed by multiple expert panels.To understand engineering faculty beliefs about teaching and learning both teamwork andcommunication skills, we conducted 50 interviews with current engineering faculty at fiveuniversities in the Fall of 2011 and the Spring of 2012. The interviews were audio recorded andtranscribed verbatim. The interviews were then coded using published definitions of qualitygenerated by panels of experts. All interviews were coded by multiple members of the researchteam using MaxQDA software.The results of the preliminary data analysis suggest areas of alignment and disagreementbetween engineering faculty and the expert panel beliefs about how teamwork andcommunication fit into engineering courses. Both the expert panel and engineering facultyspecify interpersonal communication as critical to effective teams in terms of effectivecommunicative practices that advance the completition of the team task and managing teamconflict was one area of alignment. Furthermore, engineering faculty stipulated teamwork as askill that students “learn by doing” and generally faculty beliefs about teamwork were consistentwith the experts. Although there was agreement about teamwork skills, the results of theanalysis provided less evidence to suggest agreement among beliefs about communication skills.For example, the expert panel emphasized using “graceful language that skillfully communicatesmeaning to readers with clarity and fluency”, but faculty emphasize their personal rules about theformat of student written work (e.g. the format of references cited and the number of referencesrequired). Therefore, engineering faculty focused on a different aspect of student writtencommunication assignments than recommended by the experts. The implications of these resultssuggest that more research is necessary to gain an understanding of not only how engineeringfaculty incorporates teamwork and communication into engineering courses, but also why? Asresearchers and educators gain this knowledge, it can be transferred to engineering students asthey start to learn to apply these essential professional skills.

Paretti, M. C., & Cross, K. J., & Matusovich, H. M. (2014, June), Match or Mismatch: Engineering Faculty Beliefs about Communication and Teamwork versus Published Criteria Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22821

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