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The Cognitive And Motivational Scaffolding That First Year Engineering Students Need When Solving Design Problems In Collaborative Teams

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Projects and Problems in First-Year Courses

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1188.1 - 14.1188.10



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Paper Authors

author page

Senay Purzer Purdue University

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

Cognitive and Motivational Scaffolding First-Year Engineering Students Need When Solving Design Problems in Collaborative Teams


This study aims to contribute to the literature on engineering learning by examining the role of team discourse in supporting or hindering first-year engineering students’ self-efficacy and achievement. Bandura’s self-efficacy theory and Vygotsky’s social constructivist theory were used as theoretical frameworks. Twenty-five first-year engineering students (six teams) participated in the study and their team discussions were video and audio recorded between February and May 2007. During the study, students worked on three design projects: a fire rescue project, a pharmaceutical lozenge design project, and a street-crossing problem. A three- stage sequential mixed-methods approach (qualitative quantitative qualitative) was used for data analysis. The first and second stages involved the coding of student talk and correlation analyses between self-efficacy, achievement, and discourse type. Results from these two phases were presented in detail in a previous paper. In summary, the analyses showed a statistically significant positive correlation between the amount of supportive comments given and the self- efficacy of the giver. There was a negative correlation between self-efficacy and engagement in disruptive behaviors. In addition, initial self-efficacy was found to be a predictor of responsive behavior. The third step of the data analysis, the focus of this paper, involved an in-depth examination of three case study students (Bryan, a support-oriented student; Eric, a response- oriented student; and Alex, a disruptive student) and their teams. Results suggest that supportive comments can improve self-efficacy and motivation and are critical for collaborative decision- making; however, a lack of analytical argumentation and skepticism can hinder cognitive processes and hurt student learning. As an implication of this study, a list of recommendations is made and an instrument is developed to help scaffold student team processes.

Introduction & Literature Review Today, more than half of the engineering faculty require their students to participate in group projects (National Science Board, 2008) making pedagogies of engagement such as project- based, problem-based, and team-based learning common practices in engineering classrooms (Smith, Sheppard, Johnson, & Johnson, 2005). When students work in teams they develop diverse knowledge and skills such as the ability to function in teams, learning how to design in teams, and learning new technical content. Consequently, the study of teamwork in the context of science and engineering education has been approached from different directions (See Figure 1).

Some educators focused on the first category, learning to “work in teams.” Examples of such work are the quantitative studies on factors that affect team effectiveness (Imbrie, Maller, & Immekus, 2005) or qualitative studies based on observations of teams (Adams, Zafft, Molano, Rao, 2008). These studies are generally motivated by the calls of National Academy of Engineering (NAE, 2004; NAE, 2005) and the engineering programs accreditation body (ABET, 2007) suggesting that engineering students need to learn skills beyond the content knowledge. For example, ABET criterion 3d requires that engineering programs can demonstrate that their

Purzer, S. (2009, June), The Cognitive And Motivational Scaffolding That First Year Engineering Students Need When Solving Design Problems In Collaborative Teams Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4703

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