June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Design in Engineering Education
23.899.1 - 23.899.9
Mentoring Team Conflicts in Capstone Design: Problems and SolutionsTeaming is ubiquitous in design education, yet the process of effectively mentoring project teamsposes a range of challenges for faculty. Many project mentors have little or no formal training inteamwork or in mentoring teams, and have learned primarily through experience. That experienceprovides a valuable resource to the design education community, particularly when coupled withempirical research on teamwork from fields such as organizational behavior.In this paper, we begin to address design faculty’s need for practice-oriented approaches tomentoring and managing design teams by focusing on team conflicts. We draw on interviews with42 capstone faculty from a diverse set of institutions and a range of disciplines to categorize bothcommon types of conflict that teams experience and approaches to “managing” the conflict.Importantly, the analysis of approaches explores not only how to resolve conflicts, but also how tomentor teams so that the student designers themselves gain expertise in conflict resolution. Theinterviews were collected as part of a larger study on effective design education; all interviews weretranscribed verbatim, edited to remove identifying information, and coded. Codes were developedthrough thematic analysis by members of the research team, with the literature on conflict resolutionproviding additional insights.Preliminary analysis of the interview data indicates that conflicts fall into two broad areas: designdecisions and interpersonal conflicts. Design decision conflicts arise when members of a teamcannot agree on a direction (e.g. which design solution to pursue, how to weight different criteria,what test methods to use to analyze a prototype). Interpersonal conflicts, which are in general bothmore common and more difficult to address, include workload imbalances (students who do toolittle as well as students who do too much), capability deficiencies (students who are not technicallycapable of performing up to their peers’ standards), personality clashes (students who struggle tofind common ground in their approaches to the project), and miscommunication (situations inwhich students clash because they have not been able to communicate effectively with on another).Approaches to resolving these conflicts include direct intervention with the whole team, discussionswith one or more team members to help them mediate the conflict for the team (i.e. training anindividual), and direct intervention with one or more team members to address weak performance.The paper describes both the strategies and the rationales faculty use for selecting which strategy ismost appropriate to the situation.The paper concludes by situating faculty responses in the research on team dynamics and conflictresolution. This research provides frameworks to ground current practices as well as additionalstrategies for both managing team conflicts and selecting appropriate intervention strategies.
Paretti, M. C., & Pembridge, J. J., & Brozina, C., & Lutz, B. D., & Phanthanousy, J. N. (2013, June), Mentoring Team Conflicts in Capstone Design: Problems and Solutions Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. https://peer.asee.org/22284
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