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Rats: Students Working In Teams, Do They Really Benefit?

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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

The Senior Experience: Capstone and Beyond

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1061.1 - 11.1061.13

Permanent URL

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Paper Authors


Scott Yost University of Kentucky

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Associate Professor
Department of Civil Engineering

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Derek Lane University of Kentucky

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Associate Dean for Graduate Programs in Communication
College of Communications & Information Studies

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George Blandford University of Kentucky

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Professor and Chair
Department of Civil Engineering
University of Kentucky

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



This paper presents various findings from an investigation of several issues surrounding students working in teams. The main data for this study comes from students who are part of the senior capstone design course. Educators and practitioners know that working in teams is a reality in the engineering profession. ABET expects academic units to demonstrate that interdisciplinary teams are mainstream in engineering programs. In support, educators give a varying degree of commitment in support of a team approach for solving engineering problems. However, much like problem solving skills, there is a temptation to assume that students already know how to implement the teaming skills without any formal learning. Unlike problem solving skills, teaming skills require varying levels of personal interaction in achieving success. Hence, does placing students in a group automatically lead to a level of success that individuals working alone can not reach? Do students really know how to maximize the benefits of teaming? If the conditions lead to successful teams, how can it be determined that synergy occurs and the whole is truly greater then the sum of individual parts?

Surveying students in the capstone design course on their abilities to function in teams is one mechanism for assessing success in developing teaming skills. Several semesters of observations are presented and comparisons are made among students with formal team education as their team skills advance over the course of a semester. Results will be presented from student surveys, faculty assessment, and readiness assessment tests (RATs). Anecdotal and empirical evidence supports the need for doing more with students than simply placing them around the same table and expecting them to be a successful team. The results and conclusions are based on evaluations from student presentations and student perceptions as well as individual and team test scores as the teams progress throughout the semester. Students received formal team skill and interdisciplinary skill training. Students were also given sufficient time to implement these skills within their team to create more cohesive and productive teams. Furthermore, learning outcomes were quantified using readiness assessment tests. While not specifically designed to investigate the differences in individual learning and group learning, these assessments show that team learning is quantifiable greater than individual learning.


Over the past two decades much has been accomplished to reform engineering education. The adoption of Engineering Criteria 2000: Criteria for Accrediting Programs in Engineering in the United States,1 required that engineering programs demonstrate that graduates are able to function on multidisciplinary teams.2,3,4 As a result, student teams in undergraduate engineering courses have become much more prevalent. Unfortunately, however, some of the stronger students continue to resist working in teams despite clear research findings that document that “teams outperform individuals acting alone or in larger organizational groupings, especially when performance requires multiple skills, judgments, and experiences.”5 The primary purpose of the current manuscript is to document the advantages accrued when engineering faculty

Yost, S., & Lane, D., & Blandford, G. (2006, June), Rats: Students Working In Teams, Do They Really Benefit? Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois.

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