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The Role of ‘Togethering’ in Developing Teamwork Relationships and Shared Meaning

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Examining Social Ties and Networks

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1573.1 - 26.1573.33



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Paper Authors


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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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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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 Southern Ontario Centre for Atmospheric Aerosol Research at the University of Toronto. He is the Director of the Collaborative Program in Engineering Education and Associate Director of the Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering (ILead). He has been awarded 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 also a Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry

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The role of ‘togethering’ in developing teamwork relationships and shared meaningMany design courses require students to create a team project with deliverables representing thecontributions of the entire team. To better understand how these teams work together, aqualitative study was conducted using video recordings of team meetings in two large first-yeardesign courses, supplemented with stimulated recall interviews with individual team members.Critical incidents around decisions, shared understandings, team movement or conflicts wereused to prompt recall and interpretation in the interviews. Using twelve individual behavioursdetermined to be critical to successful team work [reference redacted], we found that a number ofteams exhibiting the same behaviours and language, pursuing superficially equivalent goals(designing a solution to a practical problem) created very different team work environments andrelationships. How were teams exhibiting the same behaviours creating different teamenvironments?Grounded in an activity theory perspective, we explored how the interactions -- specifically theways students used the behaviours, language, gestures and visual elements -- have helped us tobegin to answer this question. Combining the data from both the video recordings and theinterviews, we observed we have labelled ‘togethering’-- “an analytical category that accountsfor the ethical manner in which individuals engage, respond, and tune to each other, despite theircognitive, emotional, and other differences” (Radford & Roth, 2011) -- as the differentiatingfactor across these teams. ‘Togethering’, and more specifically what the team ‘togethered’around, allowed us to articulate how the teams were working in visibly different manners despiteappearing to do the same activity. In teams that ‘togethered’ it was possible to see in the videorecordings how student use of language, gesture, drawings, etc. supported their pursuit of acollectively motivated object (Leont’ev, A. N., 1981).This paper will investigate ‘togethering’ at two levels: first, as an investigation of behaviours andmechanisms that allowed the students observed to create effective teamwork environments; andsecond, as a means of understanding the ways students use language, gesture and visual elementsto create shared meanings even when the language is not linguistically perfect/accurate. Throughcombining these two objectives, we will ultimately explore the ways the researchers haveleveraged team interactions to create a deeper theoretical and practical understanding of therelationship of context, interaction and learning in design-team work.

Sheridan, P. K., & Kinnear, P., & Evans, G., & Reeve, D. (2015, June), The Role of ‘Togethering’ in Developing Teamwork Relationships and Shared Meaning Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24907

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