June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Design in Engineering Education
Collaboration has been identified as a key 21st century skill, vital for success in multidisciplinary environments that are increasingly common in engineering and technology contexts. While researchers have frequently discussed how students develop competencies that facilitate success in groups, little is known about how individual students build their own sense of competence and autonomy after working primarily in groups. In this paper, we present results from an undergraduate transdisciplinary degree program in which students spent the first two years of their core degree experience working almost exclusively in groups, while also developing an individual set of disciplinary interests and competencies. Researchers built an understanding of students’ individual and group development through extended ethnographic engagement, focus groups, and interviews as students worked concurrently on group and individual projects for the first time during the first semester of their junior year. Based on analysis of this transitional semester, we identified strategies that students used to build an individual sense of competence, in both technical and “soft” skills. These strategies allow for a fuller conversation regarding how students adapt competence gained in their group experiences and identify new areas of competence that must be confronted and mastered. These findings indicate the need to further understand the differences in the ways that the sequencing of group and individual work might impact the development of competencies in individual students, and the ways in which a project-based environment can encourage this development in a systematic and sustainable way.
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