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Use Of Learning Styles For Teamwork And Professional Development In A Multidisciplinary Course

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Understanding and Measuring the Impact of Multidisciplinarity

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1305.1 - 15.1305.13



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Paper Authors

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Eli Patten University of California at Berkeley Orcid 16x16

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Sara Atwood University of California, Berkeley

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Lisa Pruitt University of California, Berkeley

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

Use of Learning Styles for Teamwork and Professional Development in a Multidisciplinary Course Abstract With the rise of integrated fields of study in engineering such as energy, biotechnology and robotics, graduating engineering students must be able to communicate effectively in teams from a variety of backgrounds. In fact, ABET has specifically identified these skills as criteria 3d and 3g. Particularly in multidisciplinary fields, engineers have different motivations, technical backgrounds, and ways of learning. In the undergraduate classroom, students can develop skills to communicate with their multidisciplinary team members and other audiences by taking into account the variety of learning styles and backgrounds. Felder et. al.1 developed a classification of learning styles in which individuals’ natural tendencies fall on a continuum in four categories: visual-verbal, sensing-intuitive, global-sequential, and active-reflective. We used this learning style classification as a framework to incorporate teamwork and professional development into a multidisciplinary course. Structural Aspects of Biomaterials is an upper-level undergraduate course cross-listed with mechanical and bio- engineering. Enrollment is about 50 students with a near even gender split. In addition to weekly, case-based lectures, there is a required professional development lab. In the lab, students identified their learning styles with Felder’s online assessment tool.2 Learning styles are discussed explicitly and incorporated into lectures, exams, assignments, and a team- based project. For the final course project, teams of about four students were assigned so that all majors, learning styles, and genders were represented in each team. The final project included an oral presentation, a written report, and an outreach teaching activity at a local children’s science museum. The lab was assessed using four surveys throughout the semester. Most students reported noticing how different learning styles contributed to group discussions (70%) and thought it brought new and creative ideas to their teams (50%). On average, female students ranked learning styles, teamwork, and the outreach teaching activity as more useful for this course, other courses, and their career while male students ranked Bloom’s taxonomy and literature search activities as more useful. With respect to different majors, bioengineers ranked technical writing, oral presentations, and teamwork as more useful, while mechanical engineers ranked the literature search activities as more useful. This indicates that various activities engaged students of different backgrounds and genders while promoting teamwork and professional development skills. When students assessed their confidence in communication and teamwork, the average confidence improved from 3.1 at the beginning of the course to 4.0 at the end (1-5 scale). Furthermore, the student ranking of the usefulness of the course on department surveys was 5.8 out of 7. This learning styles framework can be adapted for other multidisciplinary courses that want to address the student challenges of communicating effectively and functioning on multidisciplinary teams.

Introduction Multidisciplinary courses have become increasingly popular, and are concomitant with the growth of interdisciplinary fields such as bioengineering, MEMS, and energy and sustainability. The number of papers published on engineering education in multidisciplinary areas has also increased in the past several years. Further, multidisciplinary courses can address two main

Patten, E., & Atwood, S., & Pruitt, L. (2010, June), Use Of Learning Styles For Teamwork And Professional Development In A Multidisciplinary Course Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15640

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