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Multidisciplinary Team Assessment A Generalizable Instrument

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Teams

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.914.1 - 13.914.8



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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 and Director of the Polling Center 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 Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer 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 Teamwork Assessment – A Generalizable Instrument


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, integrate, and test their project. Over the past four years, teamwork surveys for this project have been implemented and analyzed. Iterations of this survey have been revised to develop a shorter and non-project specific survey instrument that measures the effectiveness of teamwork. The purpose of a concise global teamwork survey is to allow assessment across projects in a consistent manner with established reliability and validity. Previous instruments with project specific items have been documented to have high reliability and strong predictive validity. During the fall, 2007 semester the revised brief teamwork survey was administered. The questions in this survey instrument contain wording such that the instrument could be applied to any project design experience and is not specific to what is being produced. This paper addresses the reliability and validity of the brief teamwork survey.


Since the advent of the ABET’s EC2000 requirements, engineering programs have increased their emphasis on multidisciplinary teamwork. Furthermore, ABET requires engineering programs to document that their graduates demonstrate “an ability to function on multi- disciplinary teams”1. Western New England College has a long history of incorporating engineering design into laboratory and course work. Additionally, interdisciplinary team efforts are initiated in the freshman year and continue for all four years.2,3 This paper describes the assessment instrument used in a senior-level interdisciplinary course that students take during the fall semester. The design project brings together students from mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering in teams typically consisting of 4-5 members. During the most recent delivery of the course, due to a limited number of platforms and a larger senior class, the teams consisted of 7-8 students.

To achieve a good level of interdisciplinary teamwork, educators need to motivate students to truly engage in teamwork interaction as part of their multidisciplinary team. Previous researchers of the pedagogical aspects of teamwork have discussed the challenges engineering educators have in motivating students to interact effectively on team-based projects. They state that little in the professors’ backgrounds or experiences provide a basis for knowing how students might show an ability to work effectively in multidisciplinary teams.4 Many researchers have offered advice regarding this problem. It has been proposed that that team teaching one integrated course results in the best opportunity for interdisciplinary interactions5. In the course used to evaluate the assessment instrument described in this paper, the professors demonstrated cooperative multidisciplinary work by delivering an integrated course together.

Assessment of multidisciplinary teams is a related challenge facing engineering educators. Much of the early assessment efforts that occurred during the timeframe of the implementation of EC2000 “ranged from hastily constructed and poorly validated instruments to rigorously

Northrup, D., & Northrup, S. (2008, June), Multidisciplinary Team Assessment A Generalizable Instrument Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4087

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