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June 22, 2020
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Engineering Leadership Development
According to the Engineer of 2020 report, one of the most important attributes that should support the success of engineering graduates when entering the workforce is leadership skills. There are several types of leadership concepts that have been linked to experiences students have in capstone design courses. In capstone courses, engineering students actively engage in real-world design problems and communicate their understanding in different teams, allowing them to develop skills and confidence which are essential in building leadership capabilities while transitioning to workplaces. However, there are few studies that have investigated the change in students’ leadership behaviors once they have transitioned into a workplace For this study, we draw from the Competing Values Framework (CVF) to answer the research question: How do leadership behaviors change among engineering students while working in teams in at three different points in time: during capstone course, three and six months in their workplace?
The participants in this study are drawn from a larger study of capstone design courses from four different universities across the United States. There were 62 participants recruited from Capstone courses from these universities. The full data set for the study includes interviews of the participants conducted at the end of their capstone course, survey responses for the first three months of their employment in engineering workplaces and semi-structured interviews conducted after three, six and 12 months in their workplace. The interviews focused on participants’ experiences regarding their challenges, accomplishments and strategies used in different environments (capstone and work). For this study, the data were analyzed using the four leadership profiles in the Competing Values Framework, which are known as the collaborate, control, create, and compete profiles. Key patterns across the participants’ qualitative responses on their leadership experiences in different environments were identified.
Results suggest that the leadership behaviors of the participants do change during the transition. Most of the leadership experiences from the participants in both capstone and the workplace were in the ‘collaborate’ and ‘control’ profiles which involve leadership behaviors including acting as facilitators, mentors and managing processes. However, participants during the capstone course described more experience related to the ‘create’ profile in comparison to the workplace where participants described more leadership behaviors including acting as innovators and negotiators. For example, participants in capstone course were involved as innovators bringing new ideas to the projects in their senior design team, led several changes in the project while working alongside industry clients and advisors, and were also actively involved in negotiations with clients and advisors during their project phase. As participants had more workplace experience in 6 months, they reported to have been given more leadership responsibilities by their supervisors that map to all of the CVF profiles. In addition, participants indicated that their leadership experiences from capstone helped them overcome challenges while leading projects during the 3 and 6 months in the workplace. The conclusions demonstrate that leadership behaviors change over time and the profile shifts according to the leadership responsibilities carried out in the team. The create profile is more dominant in the capstone course while collaborate and control profiles are common in all phases and compete profile arises after six months on the job.
Chowdhury, T. M., & Knight, D., & Kotys-Schwartz, D. A., & Ford, J. D., & Murzi, H. (2020, June), Using Competing Values Framework to Map the Development of Leadership Skills as Capstone Design Students Transition to the Workplace Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35456
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