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Patterns In Team Communication During A Simulation Game

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Course Innovation

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.986.1 - 11.986.17



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Paper Authors


David Baca University of Missouri-Rolla

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DAVID M. BACA received his B.S.. from the University of Missouri – Rolla in Architectural Engineering in 2005. He is currently a graduate student in Engineering Management at UMR. His research interests include organization change and transformation.

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Steve Watkins University of Missouri-Rolla

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STEVE E. WATKINS received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas - Austin in Electrical Engineering in 1989. He holds an M.S.E.E. and a B.S.E.E. from University of Missouri-Rolla. He is currently a Professor at UMR and Director of the Applied Optics Laboratory. His research interests include optical sensing, smart system applications, and engineering education.

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Ray Luechtefeld University of Missouri-Rolla

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RAY LUECHTEFELD received his Ph.D. from Boston College in Organization Studies. He holds an MBA from the University of Minnesota and a B.S.E.E. from University of Missouri-Rolla. He is currently an Assistant Professor at UMR. His research interests include approaches to organizational learning and effectiveness, simulations and games for learning and research, action research and Action Science, and facilitating group learning.

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

Patterns in Team Communication during a Simulation Game


The development of communication skills is a necessary preparation for effective engineering teamwork. Argyris’ “Theory of Action” provides a framework for understanding patterns in team dialogue. Students can benefit from an awareness of these patterns. The theory highlights the detection and correction of errors by sharing information during group collaboration and interactions. Quality decision-making can be enhanced when members of a team develop high degrees of openness and interdependence. Quality decision-making can be diminished when members of a team regulate the information shared within the team. This work analyzes team interactions from simulation games used in an interdisciplinary engineering course as a team training exercise. Communication patterns of the student teams are selected that model effective and ineffective behaviors. Positive and negative excerpts from actual student interactions are discussed as instructional vehicles for student training on teamwork skills and for guiding student understanding of simulation game dynamics.

1.0 Introduction

The ability to successfully work in teams is a crucial ingredient for success in the workplace1. Researchers also report that team success in an academic setting is determined more by the group’s ability to identify and overcome communication problems, than to handle technical ones 2. Unfortunately, while universities know their students must understand the complicated technical principles of engineering, it is less common for these institutions to include team communication or team training as part of the undergraduate curriculum. Instructors often give team projects in an effort to help students learn effective teamwork skills, but this practice alone does not teach team dynamics3. The fundamentals of how people work and interact is a skill; like calculus or circuits, it must be taught, practiced and evaluated3,4.

Quality decision-making can be enhanced when members of a team develop high degrees of openness and interdependence. When members of a team regulate or ignore certain information, the quality of the decision is diminished5. From the Argyris and Schön “Theory of Action” perspective, “the detection and correction of errors produces learning, whereas the lack of either or both inhibits learning”6. Therefore, the ability of a group to learn is paramount for effective decision-making and high team performance. Argyris describes a model of Unilateral Action that most people follow, which leads to reduced valid information and decreased trust. As an alternative, he recommends the Mutual Learning Model as an ideal method for promoting learning and effectiveness while minimizing deception and defensiveness7.

How can educators provide guidance to students that will help them navigate the complexities of dealing with team dynamics? This paper investigates actual student dialogue expressed through computer simulations and self-reported exercises with the intent to help

Baca, D., & Watkins, S., & Luechtefeld, R. (2006, June), Patterns In Team Communication During A Simulation Game Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--661

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