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Tinkering Interactions On Freshman Engineering Design Teams

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

FPD5 - Teaming and Peer Performance

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1289.1 - 13.1289.35



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Paper Authors

author page

Arlisa Labrie Richardson Arizona State University

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

Tinkering Self-Efficacy and Team Interaction on Freshman Engineering Design Teams Introduction

In the book Talking about Leaving, Seymour and Hewitt interviewed hundreds of college students whose high-school SAT math scores were at least 650 and who started their college careers in natural science, mathematics or engineering. The interviewees were selected randomly by the participating colleges and universities. Approximately half of those interviewed had switched majors out of science-math-engineering (SME) programs by their senior years. The other half of those interviewed were still SME majors as seniors and planned to graduate with a degree in natural science, mathematics or engineering. They found that the greatest contribution to the loss of students in Science, Math and Engineering fields was due to problems associated with the structure of the educational experience and the culture of the disciplines. They also found that SME academic programs had a more significant negative impact on female and male students of color and white women 32. Henes, Bland, Darby, and McDonald reported that the results of a University of California Davis survey of 419 male and female engineering students indicated five major reasons why women leave or become discouraged with engineering: (1) Isolation, (2) not seeing relevance of highly theoretical basic courses, (3) negative experiences in laboratory courses, (4) the “cold classroom climate” and (5) lack of role models 17.

The first-year of engineering curriculum is critical in students’ decision to persist in engineering. A six-year longitudinal study of undergraduate female engineering students at the University of Washington found that woman entered engineering programs as high academic achievers with confidence in their abilities. However, among women who left engineering by their sophomore year, their confidence declined during the first year of study 9. Vivian Anderson interviewed 40 female students enrolled in their third or fourth year of an undergraduate engineering program and found that loss of self esteem was the biggest problem facing female engineering students 3.

The course and curriculum structure of many engineering programs result in a sense of isolation for the female students. The first and second years of college for engineering students consist of required basic mathematics, chemistry and physics courses that have numerous course sections, and engineering students are scattered. Due to the challenging workload, students rarely get involved with student engineering organizations and do not form the social network that is important for survival in engineering. The experience of isolation was even more pronounced for female students than the experience of male engineering students since there are so few female engineering students 17. Additionally, the engineering courses often lack context, especially in the first year. Because many of these preliminary courses are large and impersonal, students often do not get the connection with the engineering, and the educational approach does not accommodate diverse learning styles 28.

Engineering education is moving towards a more team-oriented curriculum that not only focuses on content but also emphasizes the importance of developing communication and collaborative skills24. Engineering organizations focus on teamwork because of its ability to help spark innovative ideas and allow participants to produce higher quality projects 18, 23. As a result, interdisciplinary or cross-functional teams are a required part of an accredited undergraduate

Labrie Richardson, A. (2008, June), Tinkering Interactions On Freshman Engineering Design Teams Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3426

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