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Self-Assessment of Leadership Behaviors Over Time Among Students in A Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design Course

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

LEAD Technical Session 1: Fostering Leadership Identity Development and DEI in Engineering Students and Professionals

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Paper Authors


Rebecca Komarek University of Colorado Boulder

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Rebecca Komarek is the Associate Director of the Idea Forge at the University of Colorado Boulder. She works in the areas of engineering leadership development and design.

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Angela Bielefeldt University of Colorado Boulder

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Angela Bielefeldt, Ph.D., P.E., is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU) in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering (CEAE). She is also the Director for the Engineering Plus program, which is in the process of being renamed to Integrated Design Engineering. Bielefeldt also serves as the co-director for the Engineering Education and AI-Augmented Learning Integrated Research Theme (IRT) at CU. She has been a faculty member at CU since 1996, serving in various roles including Faculty Director of the Sustainable By Design Residential Academic Program (2014-2017), Director of the Environmental Engineering program (2006-2010), and ABET Assessment Coordinator for the CEAE Department (2008-2018). Bielefeldt is active in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), serving on the Civil Engineering Program Criteria Task Committee (2019-2022) and the Body of Knowledge 3 Task Committee (2016-2018). She is the Senior Editor for the International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering (IJSLE) and a Deputy Editor for the ASCE Journal of Civil Engineering Education. Her research focuses on engineering education, including ethics, social responsibility, sustainable engineering, and community engagement. Bielefeldt is also a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education.

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Daniel Knight University of Colorado Boulder

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With the changes in accreditation requirements, engineering programs are deciding how to best teach and assess leadership skills among their students. One frequently utilized method of assessment is giving students a pre- and post-test. The goal of this study is to explore the use of a pre-, mid-, and post-assessment model to assess leadership behaviors among mechanical engineering students in a capstone design course. A quantitative approach was taken, using an adapted Managerial Behavior Instrument, which follows the tenets of the Competing Values Framework (CVF). The CVF highlights that the most effective leaders have skills in all four leadership orientations: Collaborate, Create, Control, and Compete. Those who excel in all areas are shown to have behavioral complexity, which equates to the ability to enact leadership actions that align with the needs of a given context and situation. Mechanical engineering students were given the same survey near the beginning of the year-long course, at just past the mid-point of the course, and in the last week of the course. Data were analyzed for the full sample, by comparing scores for men and women, and by comparing trends of students who started the course with high complexity ratings to those who started the course with low complexity ratings. Results show significant changes from the pre- to post-assessments in the Create, Control, and Compete quadrants. Men, as a group, showed similar trends to the larger sample, while women significantly increased their scores only in Create from pre- to post-assessment. Men and women showed similar change from pre- to post-assessments. Students who rated themselves as behaviorally complex at the beginning of the semester had lower scores at the end of the semester. Students who rated themselves as having low complexity at the beginning of the semester steadily raised their scores on the mid- and post-assessments. These findings are informative to engineering educators who are exploring ways to add leadership development into their curriculum by providing insights on student leadership scores and an example of one assessment method of leadership behaviors. The results implicate intensive team-based courses such as capstone design as being one part of a typical engineering curriculum that contributes to leadership development.

Komarek, R., & Bielefeldt, A., & Knight, D. (2022, August), Self-Assessment of Leadership Behaviors Over Time Among Students in A Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design Course Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. 10.18260/1-2--40937

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