June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.979.1 - 15.979.19
Prioritizing Teamwork: Promoting Process and Product Effectiveness in the Freshman Engineering Design Course Abstract
Twenty-first century engineers face complex challenges that demand collaborative problem solving. However, traditional engineering education does not sufficiently prepare students for the profession. The call for instruction in such skills as communication and teamwork is not new; ABET and industrial boards have argued for inclusion of these topics in engineering education for many years. Yet, engineering programs continue to struggle with the development of best practices for teaching communication and teamwork principles that are contextual, meaningful, and applicable. The purpose of this paper is to highlight a curricular revision that foregrounds teamwork instruction in a freshman Introduction to Robotic Systems Design course. First, we highlight our approach to teamwork instruction to prepare students to be effective interpersonal communicators and collaborative writers. Next, we assess our efforts through (a) student feedback via course evaluations, comparing this year’s data with last year’s; (b) students’ peer evaluations; (c) students’ team progress reports, assessing collaborative writing skills; and (d) feedback from the instructional team guiding continuous improvement in the course.
Collaboration and communication impact engineering practice in profound ways. Engineers need to be creative, innovative problem solvers, often under time constraints. As a result, effective teamwork and communication are paramount. To equip students with the teamwork and communication skills necessary for engineering practice, educators have developed various approaches including writing across the curriculum, cooperative project-based learning, and integrated communication instruction. For more than ten years, we have integrated teamwork and communication (oral and written) instruction into the freshman and senior Mechanical Engineering design classes, relying on graduate students from Communication and English to provide instruction. Our model, however, is not without flaws. For example, freshman often feel overwhelmed with the workload in the introductory course, since they are learning computer programs, design principles, oral and written communication, and teamwork skills. Additionally, limited instruction in design, teamwork, or communication is incorporated into the sophomore or junior classes. As a result, we developed an integrated Student-driven Pedagogy of Integrated, Reinforced, Active Learning (SPIRAL) curriculum1 and implemented it in Fall 2009. The redesign distributes and integrates computational, design, and professional (teamwork and communication) skills throughout four courses comprising the mechanical engineering core in the freshman and sophomore years, building through the junior year, and culminating in the senior capstone course (see Appendix A for an overview of the Mechanical Engineering students’ core curriculum). Now, we can prioritize aspects of teamwork and communication (oral and written) instruction in each course to minimize information overload for the students, while at the same time, instilling the importance of these professional skills to engineering practice.
ME 1000 is a freshman design course where student teams design and build a device that must traverse an obstacle course. Feedback from students, as well as evaluations of final products (designs, papers, presentations) prior to Fall 2009 pointed to various teamwork deficiencies.
Simmons, K., & Sample, S., & Kedrowicz, A. (2010, June), Prioritizing Teamwork: Promoting Process And Product Effectiveness In The Freshman Engineering Design Course Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16172
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