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The Effect of Previous Team Experiences on Students’ Perceptions of Interdisciplinary Engineering Problems

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Fostering Student Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1447.1 - 22.1447.19



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Paper Authors


Alexandra Emelina Coso Georgia Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Alexandra Coso is a graduate student in the Cognitive Engineering Center at Georgia Tech, where she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering. She received her B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from MIT and her M.S. in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia. Her research interests include interdisciplinary engineering education, mixed method research, and cognitive engineering.

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Reid Bailey University of Virginia

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Reid Bailey is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Systems and Information Engineering at the University of Virginia.

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The Effect of Previous Team Experiences on Students’ Perceptions of Interdisciplinary Engineering ProblemsCurrently, there exists a movement within engineering education toward interdisciplinarycourses and curricula. Students are now introduced to the concepts of an interdisciplinaryapproach to problem solving and the challenges of working on an interdisciplinary team as earlyas the second year of study. Researchers are only beginning to characterize students’ experiencesin these interdisciplinary courses and majors. The purpose of this study is to further this researchthrough the exploration of students’ perceptions of interdisciplinary team dynamics and thefactors which influence those perceptions.Focus groups and interviews were completed in the fall of 2009 and spring of 2010 with asample of 18 second year engineering students. In the focus groups, students were put in amanagement position, and asked to assemble different teams capable of focusing on specificfactors related to a broader interdisciplinary problem. Through the focus group, studentsdiscussed the composition of the teams and the advantages and disadvantages of interdisciplinaryteams. The interviews provided a setting for the researcher to clarify comments made within thefocus group as well as ask students about their previous experiences in engineering and onengineering-related teams.Both qualitative instruments were analyzed using a qualitative coding scheme based on groundedtheory to identify emergent themes or categories within the discussions. The initial codingscheme was influenced by previous research on engineering design and was modified to focus oninterdisciplinarity. Results from this analysis indicate that students acknowledge the importanceof communication, trust, and mutual respect when working on an interdisciplinary engineeringproject. Overall, when discussing the major advantages and disadvantages of interdisciplinaryteam projects, students focused on the components of team dynamics moreso than otherdimension of interdisciplinarity, such as integration of knowledge from multiple disciplines orassembling a team with appropriate disciplinary specialists. While student perceptions did notvary with gender or major, students’ previous experiences on team projects were shown tostrongly affect their responses to the questions throughout both stages of the study.

Coso, A. E., & Bailey, R. (2011, June), The Effect of Previous Team Experiences on Students’ Perceptions of Interdisciplinary Engineering Problems Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18489

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