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The Role of Shared Physical Space in Affording the Creation of Shared Conceptual Spaces in Design Project Teams

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Student Teams, Groups, and Collaborations

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Penny Kinnear University of Toronto

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Penny Kinnear currently works with the Engineering Communication Program at the University of Toronto where she focuses on the development and delivery of Professional Language support for a highly student body. She has a background in applied linguistics, second language and bilingual education and writing education. She is co-author of the book, "Sociocultural Theory in Second Language Education: An introduction through narratives." Her current research projects include a longitudinal study on professional identity development of Chemical Engineering students and a study of meaning-making language and behaviour in student design teams.

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Patricia Kristine Sheridan University of Toronto

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Patricia Sheridan is a PhD candidate in the Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering and the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto. She holds a B.A.Sc. and M.A.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering, and is a core member of the Praxis cornerstone design teaching team. Her teaching and course development focus on creating interactive learning activities at the intersection of design, leadership, teamwork, and identity formation. Her research focuses on methods to improve the teaching and learning of team effectiveness in engineering design courses.

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Greg Evans University of Toronto Orcid 16x16

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GREG EVANS is a Professor of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry and the Director of the Collaborative Program in Engineering Education at the University of Toronto. . He is the Director of the Southern Ontario Centre for Atmospheric Aerosol Research and Associate Director of the Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering (ILead). He has been awarded the 2015 Ontario Conferderation of University faculty Associations Teaching Award, the 2014 Allan Blizzard Award, the 2014 Faculty Teaching Award, the 2013 Northrop Frye Award for Linking Teaching and Research, the 2010 Engineers Canada Medal for Distinction in Engineering Education and the 2010 American Society for Engineering Education St. Lawrence Section Outstanding Teaching Award. He is a licensed engineer (P.Eng.) and holds a BASc, MASc and PhD (Toronto).

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Doug Reeve University of Toronto

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Dr. Reeve is the founding Director of the Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering (ILead) established in 2010. Development of personal capability has been central to his work with engineering students for twenty-five years. In 2002 he established Leaders of Tomorrow, a student leadership development program that led to the establishment of ILead in 2010. He is a Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry.

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The role of shared physical and conceptual spaces in affording shared meaning and effective teams

This research paper follows up on a study presented at ASEE 2015 on the concept of ‘togethering’, and explores the ways in which five first-year design teams attempted to use their physical space to create a shared conceptual space, and the impact their efforts had on the teams’ ability to co-construct shared meaning and develop an effective team environment.

To better understand how these teams worked together, a qualitative study was conducted using video recordings of team meetings in two large first-year design courses, supplemented with stimulated recall interviews with individual team members to assist in interpreting team member intention. Student teams were followed through non-participatory observation for three team-meetings spaced out over a four month term. The data were analyzed using NVivo with a constant comparison method. Initially, individual behaviours and oral contributions were coded with respect to how they contributed to moving (or not moving) the team toward the course goals (developing a design) and for meaning-making episodes. However, these definitions of team progress and meaning-making were not sufficient to describe how the teams were able to co-construct their design work, as they privileged the outcome of the interaction over its modality and process. Subsequent analysis and coding of the team meetings have produced definitions of ‘incident’ to be an outcome of the teams’ interaction plus a shared conceptual and/or physical space, (un)conscious objectives/intentions and a defined activity. These incidents can then be evaluated in terms of how the team engages, responds and tunes with one another to ‘together’ and create a collaborative environment.

This paper will investigate how the shared physical and conceptual space of the team members allowed them to interact with each other in a way that afforded them the ability to engage, respond and tune to one another and the team. Through further exploration of the video-recordings of the teams, the researchers have identified how both physical and conceptual space is fundamental to a team’s ability to ‘together’ and make thinking and designing a collective process rather than a collection of individual thoughts. Strategies for facilitating student shared physical and conceptual space that afford shared meaning and effective teams to emerge will be presented.

Kinnear, P., & Sheridan, P. K., & Evans, G., & Reeve, D. (2016, June), The Role of Shared Physical Space in Affording the Creation of Shared Conceptual Spaces in Design Project Teams Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27010

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