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Structuring Team Learning Tasks To Increase Student Engagement And Collaboration

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

The Best of Design in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1102.1 - 13.1102.16



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Paper Authors


Steven Zemke Gonzaga University

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Steven Zemke is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Gonzaga University. His primary responsibilities are Design courses and assessment. His research interests include effective learning environments and design teaching and learning. Prior to teaching he was a design engineer and manager for 23 years and holds five patents.

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Diane Zemke Gonzaga University

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Diane Zemke is a PhD candidate at Gonzaga University in Leadership Studies. Her interests include small group dynamics, reflective practices, learning, and qualitative methods. She has co-authored papers on use of small teams in design engineering.

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

Structuring Team Learning Tasks To Increase Student Engagement and Collaboration


Design in industry is usually done in collaborative teams. So, it is only natural that design classes also use teams. Student teams, however, present a common challenge for design faculty. Every instructor is familiar with “dream” teams that excel at everything, and with “nightmare” teams that fail to complete tasks, degenerate into conflict, or both. Though the benefits of learning in teams is widely discussed,1, 2, 3 practically understanding team-based pedagogies that reliably initiate excellent team performance is very valuable.

This study applied a well-tested team-center pedagogy, Team Based Learning (TBL),4 to an intermediate design class. TBL, developed by L. K. Michaelsen, integrates pre-class reading, short individual and team assessment quizzes, and challenging in-class team tasks. The design of TBL in-class tasks is fundamental to stimulating teamwork and learning. The tasks must draw the students together collaboratively for learning. If the tasks fail to do this, teamwork and learning both suffer.

Creating in-class tasks that truly engage teams can be difficult. Some tasks that initially appear good do not initiate collaboration. Furthermore, Michaelsen’s guidelines for creating good tasks do not easily transfer to engineering design. Our intent in this study was to learn how to create tasks that engage students and initiate active collaboration.

In this study, we taught an intermediate design class using TBL. Video-recordings of teams working on tasks and the class handouts that initiated the tasks were collected as data. Mixed quantitative and qualitative research methods5 were used to assess which in-class tasks supported high student collaboration and why. The findings of this study apply directly to using TBL in design classes and generally apply to other team tasks.

Team Based Learning

TBL divides a course into 2-3 week topics, each topic taught in three phases:

1. Phase 1, Preparation: Students read the textbook chapter before class. In class, the students are given a short quiz over the material, first individually and then as a team. During the team quiz, the instructor grades a few of the individual quizzes to spot areas of weakness. The instructor then gives a short lecture to improve student understanding in weak areas. The preparation exposes students to the content while freeing class time for application.

2. Phase 2, Application: Teams are alternately given in-class exercises with end-of-class feedback and out-of-class homework. The complexity of the feedback and homework is

Zemke, S., & Zemke, D. (2008, June), Structuring Team Learning Tasks To Increase Student Engagement And Collaboration Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3238

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