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Toward the Effective Implementation of Collaborative Problem Solving in Undergraduate Engineering Classrooms: Co-designing Guidelines for Teaching Assistants

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Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Collaboration and Communication in Problem-based Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

11

DOI

10.18260/1-2--35396

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/35396

Download Count

89

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Paper Authors

biography

Saadeddine Shehab University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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A Postdoc Research Associate at the Siebel Center for Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; studies the role of the teacher in collaborative problem solving in STEM classrooms

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LuEttaMae Lawrence University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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LuEttaMae Lawrence has a PhD in Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Digital Environments for Learning, Teaching, and Agency. Her background as a graphic designer inspired her interest in the design of learning environments. Her research focuses on the affordances of educational technology in formal and informal spaces and how researchers use the design process to facilitate and scaffold interdisciplinary work.

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Emma Mercier University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Emma Mercier is an associate professor in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her work focuses on collaborative learning in classrooms, and in particular, the use of technology for teachers and students during collaborative learning. Most recently Mercier's projects have focused on collaborative learning in required undergraduate engineering courses.

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Anthony Salvatore Margotta University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Anthony is a master’s student in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering and former TA for TAM 251. He is helping to create resources to promote collaborative learning in undergraduate engineering courses

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Elizabeth Renee Livingston

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Mariana Silva University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Mariana Silva is a Teaching Assistant Professor in Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has been involved in large-scale teaching innovation activities, such as the development of online course content and assessments for the mechanics course sequence in the Mechanical Science and
Engineering Department and the numerical methods class in Computer Science. Silva is currently involved in two educational projects involving the development of online assessments for computer-based testing and creation of collaborative programming activities for computer science classes. She is also involved in a project that aims to create a software that facilitates collaborative problem-solving activities in classrooms, through which both the instructors and students learn more about collaboration skills. Silva is very passionate about teaching and improving the classroom experience for both students and instructors. She has been included in the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent five
times and has received the Engineering Council Outstanding Advisor Award every year since 2014.

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Taylor Tucker University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Taylor Tucker received her Bachelor’s degree in engineering mechanics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is now pursuing a Master's in curriculum and instruction through the Digital Environments for Learning, Teaching, and Agency (DELTA) program. She is interested in engineering design and lends her technical background to her research with the Collaborative Learning Lab, exploring how to improve ill-structured tasks for engineering students in order to promote collaborative problem solving and provide experience relevant to authentic work in industry.

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Abstract

Typically, in higher education STEM classes, teaching assistants (TAs) perform teaching duties such as leading and running discussion sections where students apply concepts they have encountered in lectures. Nevertheless, research studies show that TAs struggle to effectively implement collaborative problem solving activities. One contributing factor is the lack of actual guidelines that can help TAs translate the theoretical ideas about implementing collaborative problem solving into concrete actions. This paper presents guidelines that can be used by TAs to implement collaborative problem solving activities in undergraduate engineering classrooms. Three researchers and two engineering teaching assistants participated in two, two-hour long workshops and co-designed the guidelines as part of a design-based implementation research project (blinded for review) that aims to develop tools to support collaborative learning in undergraduate engineering courses. Both workshops were audio recorded. Two researchers extracted the teaching strategies the team discussed during the workshops. All members of the team were asked to review the guidelines separately, and then met to approve and finalize the guidelines. The co-designed guidelines can be implemented at the beginning, during, and end of class to support students’ collaboration. In order to set the stage for effective collaboration to happen, TAs need to stress the importance of developing collaborative practices as a major objective of the course. They need to create common expectations and understanding of collaboration with the students and embed collaboration in the assessment metrics for the course. At the beginning of class, the TAs need to remind students to create a joint space to explore and test out solutions as a group; giving them details about the task-related concepts and procedures during the introductions can hinder this process. During class and before intervening TAs need to monitor a group to diagnose the group’s difficulties and decide if an intervention is necessary. When TAs intervene, providing the group with explicit problem solving procedures or answers takes away the need to co-construct knowledge. Instead, TAs can ask group members to check their answers with each other. They can also demonstrate desired collaborative behaviors to groups by addressing all group members when speaking and by challenging students’ ideas. At the end of class, TAs need to discuss different groups’ answers and ask students to comment on successful collaborative instances. The co-designed guidelines were used by the TAs to create concrete collaborative tips that can help future TAs facilitate collaboration when students are working on specific worksheets. They can also be used to inform the content of preparation programs that aim at helping TAs better perform their teaching duties. Future studies must assess the impact of using these guidelines on how TAs implement collaborative problem solving activities in undergraduate engineering classes. They must also assess the impact of using these guidelines on the TAs’ perceptions of collaboration and the development of teaching practices to orchestrate collaborative problem solving classrooms.

Shehab, S., & Lawrence, L., & Mercier, E., & Margotta, A. S., & Livingston, E. R., & Silva, M., & Tucker, T. (2020, June), Toward the Effective Implementation of Collaborative Problem Solving in Undergraduate Engineering Classrooms: Co-designing Guidelines for Teaching Assistants Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35396

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