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Understanding Students’ Experiences with Teamwork in the Australian Context

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Design Teams 1

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Tahsin Mahmud Chowdhury Virginia Tech

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Tahsin Mahmud Chowdhury is a PhD student at Virginia Tech in the department of Engineering Education. Tahsin holds a bachelors degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering and has worked as a manufacturing professional at a Fortune 500 company. As an Engineering Education researcher, he is interested in enhancing professional competencies for engineering workforce development in academia and beyond. He is actively engaged in different projects at the department focusing on teamwork and leadership competencies in engineering.

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Homero Murzi Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Homero Murzi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He holds degrees in Industrial Engineering (BS, MS), Master of Business Administration (MBA) and in Engineering Education (PhD). Homero has 15 years of international experience working in industry and academia. His research focuses on contemporary and inclusive pedagogical practices, industry-driven competency development in engineering, and understanding the barriers that Latinx and Native Americans have in engineering. Homero has been recognized as a Diggs scholar, a Graduate Academy for Teaching Excellence fellow, a Diversity scholar, a Fulbright scholar and was inducted in the Bouchet Honor Society.

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Sophia Vicente Virginia Tech

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Sophia is a first-year PhD student in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. She is a member of the ECLIPS lab and an instructor for the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University.

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The Engineer of 2020 report and ABET highlight the importance of teamwork as an important skill in engineering due to the increasing complexity and scale of the types of problems engineers solve. Working in teams effectively as engineers is a highly regarded trait in industry. Industries are recently shifting towards working in larger team sizes due to the complexity of solving problems in today’s world. This requires engineering programs to effectively train engineering students in order to understand what is required to become a successful team member and what skills associated with effective teamwork they need to master. However, training engineering students on teamwork is not a trivial task. In this study, a large teamwork framework was implemented in a senior design engineering course at an Australian University. In order to provide an experience that is similar to what students face in the workforce, students were working on a real design problem and in large teams. Working in larger teams is associated with several challenges and this framework specifically ensured that students receive the proper training before facing such a challenging task.

The purpose of the study was to better understand the experiences of students working on a senior design project in large teams who have been trained with teamwork skills and guided throughout the process. Hence, the study answered the following research question,

RQ: How do the students perceive their experiences of teamwork when working in a large team in a senior design class?

Data were collected using semi-structured interviews from 4 undergraduate engineering students enrolled in the senior year mandatory engineering design course. The team consisted of 14 students in each group and participants were selected from 4 different teams. The interview questions further probed the different teamwork experiences which participants went through in a large team. The data was analyzed using thematic analysis methods. We identified key patterns across the participants’ qualitative responses on their teamwork experience during the project.

Results suggested that students perceived their experiences of teamwork when working in a large team to be mostly challenging. In particular, participants mostly discussed their challenges in terms of team structure and lack of communication. However, when the challenges were faced, the teamwork training helped the students use several strategies to overcome them resulting in positive impact and accomplishments towards their project.

Even though the students initially resisted to work in larger teams at the beginning, but by the end of the project, they appreciated the value of the real-world industry driven experience and also felt well prepared for transitioning to engineering workplaces. This study suggests that even with a complex and large team, it is important to understand the involvement of instructors and engineering education researchers in teaching student’s teamwork skills. The value of training students with teamwork and providing constructive feedback throughout the process can help in project success in any complex situation.

Chowdhury, T. M., & Murzi, H., & Vicente, S. (2020, June), Understanding Students’ Experiences with Teamwork in the Australian Context Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35428

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