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Peer Learning: Observation Of The Cluster Effect In Multidisciplinary Team Settings

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Design

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.921.1 - 8.921.13

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Paper Authors

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Jennifer Miskimins

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

Session 3125

Peer Learning: Observation of the Cluster Effect in Multidisciplinary Team Settings Jennifer L. Miskimins Colorado School of Mines


Teamwork education and multidisciplinary integration have become progressively more important over the last decade. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), which is responsible for the accreditation of engineering programs, specifically states that engineering programs “must demonstrate that their graduates have an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams.1” In addition to educational standards, the industries that hire engineering graduates expect these graduates to be able to function fully in interdisciplinary settings.2,3,4

In multidisciplinary teamwork settings, one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome is the “languages” used by the different disciplines involved in the interdisciplinary teams. In most upper level undergraduate design classes, the students have just begun to understand the technical language of their own disciplines and have little patience for learning another. These technical language barriers can frustrate team members, impede team progress, and lead to severe dysfunction in team processes.

One way to overcome interdisciplinary technical language barriers is to foster peer learning between team members. Peer learning provides many benefits for students including the opportunity to teach others about their chosen field of study. There is significant documentation that suggests if a student is responsible for instructing others, they will have greater retention of the subject matter and gain a deeper insight into it themselves.5 This interaction between team members also serves to reinforce terminology that is essential for communication between disciplines and leads to the discovery of expressions which have dual meanings.

The study presented in this paper discusses a method used to measure the value of peer learning in a multidisciplinary team setting using cluster analysis. Cluster analysis is a multivariate statistical technique used to group objects based on their similar characteristics. An outline of the study participants and class setting is provided followed by a discussion of cluster analysis techniques. The results of the study are then presented along with a discussion of the validity of the technique and the ongoing measurement efforts.

Study Participants

The Colorado School of Mines has a history of teamwork education and provides undergraduates the opportunity to take design classes at all levels of their undergraduate studies.6,7,8 Seniors from the Multidisciplinary Petroleum Design (MPD) class at the Colorado School of Mines were selected for this study. This class is comprised of students from the disciplines of geology and geological engineering (GE), geophysical engineering (GP), and petroleum engineering (PE).

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Miskimins, J. (2003, June), Peer Learning: Observation Of The Cluster Effect In Multidisciplinary Team Settings Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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