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Providing First Year Engineering Students With Cross Disipline Groups

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.431.1 - 4.431.8

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Paper Authors

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Timothy J. Robinson

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Jeffrey B. Connor

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

Session 2253

Providing First Year Engineering Students with Cross-Discipline Groups

Jeffrey B. Connor, Timothy J. Robinson

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


An experiment was conducted to quantify the efficacy of cross-discipline groups to improve freshman engineers’ academics, social adjustment, and appreciation of the liberal arts. One set of students was grouped in both their engineering and English classes. Another set of students was placed in engineering groups only. At the beginning and end of the semester all students completed a survey to measure their perceptions of group work.

Students generally had less enthusiasm for groups at the end of the semester, cross-listed students had no significantly different perceptions, and academically better students responded to groups less favorably than poorer students.


Virginia Tech requires all first semester engineering students to take Introduction to Engineering I (EF 1015); a two credit course designed to introduce the profession and to develop problem solving skills. Engineering students are also required to take an introductory English class in the first semester. Both the English and engineering classes recognize that the ability to work well within groups is desirable both academically and professionally. Many studies have indicated the positive impact of group work on college students, academically and socially1.

Study design

In four sections of EF 1015, 120 first semester engineering student were divided into heterogeneous groups of four according to SAT scores. 75% of the students are designated “non-Common” and 25% “Common”. Common students are those that were in the same group of four in both their English and engineering classes and non-Common are those students that were not in the same English and engineering groups. At the beginning of the semester common students numbered 28. At the start and end of the semester all students rated the following statements on a scale of one to five (1, strongly disagree; 5 strongly agree):

1) The relationship between science and liberal arts is strong. 2) Scientific success is dependent upon communication skill. 3) A group will produce a “better” result than an individual.

Robinson, T. J., & Connor, J. B. (1999, June), Providing First Year Engineering Students With Cross Disipline Groups Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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