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Understanding Faculty and Student Beliefs About Teamwork and Communication Skills

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Advances in Communication Instruction

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1394.1 - 25.1394.13



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Paper Authors


Holly M Matusovich Virginia Tech

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Holly Matusovich is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education. Matusovich earned her doctoral degree in engineering education at Purdue University. She also has a B.S. in chemical engineering and an M.S. in materials science with a concentration in metallurgy. Additionally, Matusovich has four years of experience as a Consulting Engineer and seven years of industrial experience in a variety of technical roles related to metallurgy and quality systems for an aerospace supplier. Matusovich’s research interests include the role of motivation in learning engineering, construction of engineering identities, and faculty development.

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Marie C. Paretti Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Marie C. Paretti is an Associate Professor of engineering education at Virginia Tech, where she co-directs the Virginia Tech Engineering Communications Center (VTECC). Her research focuses on communication in engineering design, interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, and design education. She was awarded a CAREER grant from NSF to study expert teaching practices in capstone design courses nationwide, and is Co-PI on several NSF grants to explore identity and interdisciplinary collaboration in engineering design.

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Andrea M. Motto Virginia Tech

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Andrea Motto is a Ph.D. student in social foundations of education and a Graduate Research Assistant in engineering education.

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Kelly J. Cross Virginia Tech

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Kelly Cross earned her bachelor's of science in chemical engineering from the Purdue University in 2007. She earned her master’s of science in materials science and engineering from the University of Cincinnati under the direction of Dale W. Schaefer, Ph.D. Cross is currently in the second year of the engineering education Ph.D. program at Virginia Tech and currently involved with multiple educational research projects with faculty at Virginia Tech.

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Understanding Faculty and Student Beliefs about Teamwork & Communication SkillsStrong communication and teamwork skills remain essential for engineering graduates in bothacademic and industry settings. They are considered by ABET to be key student learningoutcomes for accreditation and are consistently high on employers list of necessary skills for newhires. Despite recognition of the importance of communication and teamwork, however, gaps inteaching these skills persist. With respect to communication, despite numerous pedagogicalstudies of effective teaching approaches, relatively few engineering courses apply thoseapproaches. Teamwork suffers from both a dearth of research on effective pedagogies andlimited integration in courses. Our three-year mixed methods study grounded in motivationtheory seeks to explore faculty and student beliefs about teamwork and communication, and toclose the critical gaps between our understandings of belief and practice. The goals of this three-year project are to 1) understand faculty and student beliefs about effective practice and learningoutcomes related to communication and teamwork, 2) articulate how well student and facultybeliefs align, how well beliefs and practices align, and what supports or prevents the adoption ofeffective practice, and 3) identify and test interventions that will enhance the teaching andlearning of communication and teamwork skills in engineering courses.This paper focuses on outcomes from Phase1 of the project, which includes 45 interviews withfaculty from civil, mechanical and industrial/system engineering, and 7 focus groups withstudents in those disciplines. The findings address two key research questions: 1) What elementsof teamwork and communication skills do faculty and students believe are essential toengineering curriculum? 2) How do faculty believe they are teaching these skills, how dostudents believe they are learning these skills, and how do these belief systems differ?The findings allow us to describe the skills faculty and students value, and help delineate how,where, and when faculty and students believe these skills are being learned. Analysis of theinterview and focus group data suggests three key findings. First, engineering faculty developsyllabi and teaching strategies based upon what they value within their own professional andacademic experiences. These personal experiences guide the types of assignments, assessmentsand methods used in the courses they teach. Second, while many instructors believe they areteaching teamwork and communication skills, students report that they are learning these skillspredominantly outside the classroom in internships, extra-curricular activities, and other informallearning experiences. Third, data support the idea that motivational factors, such as faculty self-efficacy beliefs related to teaching teamwork and communication, are critical to understandingthe gaps between “best practices” and “current practices.” These outcomes will inform thedevelopment of interventions that will provide educators with both necessary knowledge andviable strategies for enacting that knowledge in the classroom.

Matusovich, H. M., & Paretti, M. C., & Motto, A. M., & Cross, K. J. (2012, June), Understanding Faculty and Student Beliefs About Teamwork and Communication Skills Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22151

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