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Team Member Selection: A Functional Based Approach

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Teamwork and Assessment

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1207.1 - 9.1207.6



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Session 3513

Team Member Selection: A Functional-Based Approach

Sharon Sauer and Pedro E. Arce

Department of Chemical Engineering, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre-Haute IN, 47803 E-mail: Department of Chemical Engineering, Tennessee Tech, Cookeville, TN 38505. E-mail:

Introduction and Motivation The modern learning approaches in engineering education require substantial training of students within a team-based environment1,2,3. The success or failure of these student teams depends heavily on the composition of the team. Therefore, the proper selection of the team members is critical to successful team functioning and, ultimately, in achieving the desired outcomes of the learning environment. A variety of approaches for the selection of team members have been used. For example, colleagues at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering used a “balanced” type of approach based, mainly, on the student grades obtained in previous courses. In this selection approach, the idea is that grade distribution will bring the balance of skills needed for successful team functioning. Others simply allow the students to choose their members with (many times) the total number of students per team as the only guideline. In other universities (e.g., West Virginia) instructors frequently use a “dual” selection approach. The students choose pairs and then the instructor forms the teams by pairing the pairs. This method allows for partial input from the students as well as from the instructor. The approach hopes to achieve the skill level needed by an effective integration of personality and by providing some diversity in the composition.

All the approaches described above fail to fully recognize one of the key aspects within the team environment: The different functions needed to attain a successful and meaningful team performance. Therefore, we believe that there is a need to introduce a more logical and systematic approach in order to address this issue. This contribution focuses on the development of student teams for learning processes based on a functional approach. Consider other educational environments where the team-based approach has been used effectively for a long time. For example, team based sports have been using a functional based approach to team member selection from the very beginning, with a clear focus on the goals of the team: Learn the sport and win games. For instance, in the game of soccer, the coaches use a functional based approach. Each team is composed of eleven players with a very specific role assigned to each one of these players. There are, basically, four levels of functionality: the keeper function, the defenders, the midfielders, and the forwards or attackers. It is an analogous approach that we’re

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Sauer, S., & Arce, P. (2004, June), Team Member Selection: A Functional Based Approach Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13575

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