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Strategies For Developing Engineering Students Teamwork And Project Management Skills

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.555.1 - 5.555.12



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Karl Smith

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

Session 1630

Strategies for Developing Engineering Student’s Teamwork and Project Management Skills

Karl A. Smith University of Minnesota


Engineering students are increasingly expected to work in teams and participate in projects. These expectations are motivated by employer expectations, ABET EC2000 criteria, and research on the importance of active and cooperative learning. Seldom is there explicit attention paid to helping students develop teamwork and project management skills. This paper outlines essential teamwork and project management skills and provides materials and suggestions for helping students develop these skills.


Teamwork is common in engineering. Technical competence is necessary of course, but it’s not sufficient. The importance of teamwork is routinely stressed by business leaders. For example, the current CEO of General Electric, John F. Welch, recently said (December, 1993): "If you can’t operate as a team player, no matter how valuable you’ve been, you really don’t belong at GE.". Effective teamwork is not easy to accomplish. Engineering professor Douglas J. Wilde said “It’s the soft stuff that’s hard, the hard stuff is easy.” Larry Leifer, Director of the Stanford Center for Design Research, reports “Design team failure is usually due to failed team dynamics.”

Strategy One

Acknowledge that not all teamwork is successful by showing group performance curve (Figure 1). This typically resonates with some of their experiences. Ask students to reflect on successful and effective team experiences, share them with one another in small groups, and to list common characteristics. Develop a joint list of characteristics of effective groups. Comment on the different types of groups and their characteristics, and compare students’ list with Katzenbach and Smith’s (1993):

A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.

Types of Teams

There is nothing magical about teamwork in engineering. For example, some types of teams

Smith, K. (2000, June), Strategies For Developing Engineering Students Teamwork And Project Management Skills Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8709

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