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Multidisciplinary Team Assessment

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Teams

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1088.1 - 12.1088.8



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Paper Authors


Denine Northrup Western New England College

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Denine A. Northrup is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Western New England College. Prior to joining Western New England College, she was the Director of Quality Improvement for the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry in the Yale University Medical School, and a Research Associate in the Vanderbilt University Institute for Public Policy Study. She earned a Ph.D. in Applied Social Psychology from Vanderbilt University, a Masters of Science in Clinical Psychology from Eastern Michigan University, and a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from the University of Michigan.

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Steven Northrup Western New England College

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Steven G. Northrup is an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at Western New England College. Prior to joining Western New England College, he was an electronics design engineer for the Ford Motor Company Electronics Division and a software engineer for Nichols Research Corporation. He earned and an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Vanderbilt University and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Multidisciplinary Team Assessment Abstract

During a semester long course entailing a multidisciplinary team project, students in computer engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering were required to work together to design, build, and test a solar car. It is the hypothesis of the faculty that students who have more multidisciplinary interaction in the design and implementation of the project will produce a better project. To evaluate this hypothesis, the authors have designed a new assessment instrument to effectively assess the level of multidisciplinary teamwork and the students’ ability to function on a multidisciplinary team. While there are some existing instruments available, few have documented reliability and validity1. For this reason, a new multidisciplinary team assessment instrument was piloted during the Fall, 2006 semester with additional measures. This approach allowed for a thorough assessment of the reliability and validity of the new instrument. The multidisciplinary assessment instrument data was also compared with independent measures of the outcomes of the project to determine the effect of multidisciplinary team work.


It is well known that multidisciplinary teamwork is a valuable part of engineering education and that ABET requires engineering programs to document that their graduates demonstrate “an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams”2. Western New England College has a long history of incorporating engineering design into its laboratories and courses. In addition, interdisciplinary team efforts are initiated in the freshman year and continue for all four years3,4. This paper describes assessment of one such interdisciplinary lab exercise, performed in the fall of the students’ senior year. The design project brings together students from mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering in a 4-5 member team.

One of the challenges facing engineering educators is how to get students to truly engage in teamwork interaction as part of a multidisciplinary team. Felder and Brent state that “Little in their (faculty's) background or experience provides a basis for knowing how students might show an ability to work effectively in multidisciplinary teams”5. Many researchers have offered advice regarding this problem. Davis, for example, proposes that team teaching one integrated course results in the best opportunity for interdisciplinary interactions6. The project being discussed in this paper is team taught by professors from three separate disciplines - electrical, computer, and mechanical engineering.

Assessment of multidisciplinary teams is a related challenge facing engineering educators. Powers et. al. state that “previous assessment efforts have ranged from hastily constructed and poorly validated instruments to rigorously developed and empirically tested assessment processes.”7 They also stated that the rigorously developed assessment processes were quite complex and impractical for most universities whose resources are limited. Their work employed the simpler approach with a 20-item instrument. They used summative faculty instruments to assess team performance and to validate formative student assessment instrument. Powers et. al. also state that other researchers “within the engineering field have been working on defining outcomes in teaming and developing multi-source feedback systems. These

Northrup, D., & Northrup, S. (2007, June), Multidisciplinary Team Assessment Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2319

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