Asee peer logo

Prioritizing Teamwork: Promoting Process And Product Effectiveness In The Freshman Engineering Design Course

Download Paper |


2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Innovative Courses/Pedagogies in Liberal Education I

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.979.1 - 15.979.19



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Kyle Simmons University of Utah

visit author page

Kyle Simmons is a graduate student currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Communication at the University of Utah. He received his M.A. from Colorado State University in Communication Studies and is currently working with the CLEAR Program as a consultant for communication and teamwork with the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Drawing from his eight years of experience with communication and teamwork, his responsibilities in this position include team building—including cohesion and conflict management, providing student/team consultations, and assessing and developing oral presentation skills.

visit author page


Susan Sample University of Utah

visit author page

Susan Sample is a doctoral student in communication and rhetoric at the University of Utah. In the CLEAR Program, she is a writing consultant to the Department of Mechanical Engineering, where her responsibilities include providing instruction in and evaluation of written communication to students in introductory courses, in addition to consulting with teaching assistants in various lab courses. She served for many years as editor of the University's Health Sciences Report magazine and continues as a program associate in the Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Sample received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona; her research interests include narrative theory in health communication.

visit author page

author page

April Kedrowicz University of Utah

Download Paper |

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

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

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2010 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015