Asee peer logo

Work in Progress: Challenges with Teaming Instruction and Managing Dysfunction

Download Paper |


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

Team Facilitation and Effectiveness

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Benjamin Emery Mertz Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

visit author page

Dr. Benjamin Mertz received his Ph. D. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 2010 and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 2005. He spent 7 years as a part of a lecturer team at Arizona State University that focused on the first-year engineering experience, including developing and teaching the Introduction to Engineering course. Currently, he is an assistant professor at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in the Mechanical Engineering department. His teaching focus is in fluid mechanics and thermodynamics but has also taught classes such as numerical methods and introduction to engineering. His interests include student pathways and motivations into engineering and developing lab-based curriculum. He has also developed an interest in non-traditional modes of content delivery including online classes and flipped classrooms and incorporating the entrepreneurial mindset into curriculum.

visit author page


Ashley Bernal Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

visit author page

Ashley Bernal is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She received her PhD from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2011. She was an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) teaching fellow and Student Teaching Enhancement Partnership (STEP) Fellow. Prior to receiving her PhD, she worked as a subsystems engineer at Boeing on the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (JUCAS) program. Her research areas of interest include piezoelectrics, nanomanufacturing, optical measuring techniques, and intercultural design.

visit author page


Patrick Cunningham Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

visit author page

Patrick Cunningham is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. His professional development is focused on researching and promoting metacognition, self-regulated learning, and reflection among students and faculty in Engineering Education. Dr. Cunningham has been a PI/Co-PI on two NSF-funded grants and led Rose-Hulman's participation in the Consortium to Promote Reflection in Engineering Education (CPREE). He is also a regular contributor to the Improve with Metacognition blog. In May of 2018, Dr. Cunningham received the Rose-Hulman Board of Trustee's Outstanding Scholar Award for his research work. Dr. Cunningham teaches a range of courses across undergraduate levels with specialization in dynamic systems, measurement, and control. In his teaching he seeks to apply what he has learned from his research, spurring student reflection and metacognitive growth, so that they may become more skillful learners. Skillful learners are capable, independent, and adaptable thinkers who are able to succeed wherever their career paths lead. Dr. Cunningham has industry experience through 7 co-op experiences as an undergraduate student, 2 sponsored projects as a graduate student, and as a consultant after joining the faculty at Rose-Hulman. He holds B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University and was an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship recipient.

visit author page


Shraddha Sangelkar Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

visit author page

Shraddha Sangelkar is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She received her M.S. (2010) and Ph.D. (2013) in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University. She taught for 5 years at Penn State Behrend prior to joining Rose-Hulman.

visit author page

Download Paper |


This is a Work In Progress (WIP) paper. In the various team experiences students have in a curriculum, they may or may not develop effective team behaviors. While the benefits and importance of teaching teaming within an engineering curriculum are well documented, many engineering graduates lack these valuable skills. Some faculty have traditionally considered these skills to be “outside of the curriculum”. When there is instruction of teaming skills it is primarily relegated to cornerstone and capstone design courses. Even when it is present in these courses, formal instruction on teamwork may be limited. From benchmarking professors’ teaming practices at our institution we found significant variation in teaming instruction and how team dysfunction is handled within named required courses in our curriculum.

In this work-in-progress, we aim to clarify the mode and content of formal instruction faculty in [department] at [institution] give students on teaming, what dysfunctions are perceived as most prevalent, and what frameworks are used for handling dysfunction. Further, we also seek to understand the challenges faculty in [department] at [institution] report in in relation to including formal teaming instruction and dealing with teaming dysfunction as it occurs. Teaming is prevalent in the [department] curriculum already. The challenges we are interested in are those under a faculty member’s control. Prior survey data was used to guide more focused questions to clarify teaming practices for formal instruction and handling dysfunction. Faculty focus groups organized around common courses where teaming is used illuminate the practices and capture the challenges faculty report.

Preliminary analysis indicates that few faculty engage students in formal teaming instruction and when they do it is often off-loaded to online tools. However, some faculty members implement constructive activities such as role-playing or exploring best-practices for team meetings and comparing them to their own experiences. Faculty feel challenged to fit teaming instruction in with content learning objectives and report lack of expertise. Most faculty reported not dealing with team dysfunction unless a student initiated a request for help. Some felt students should be able to handle dysfunction on their own. A few faculty members reported proactive practices aimed at preventing team dysfunction before it occurs, e.g., through creating a team contract for team behavior. A few faculty members also reported purposeful engagement with teams to identify and constructively process team dysfunction, where they moderate listening and hearing each team members’ perspectives and facilitate team member generated solutions.

This work is part of a larger curriculum vision project where we are seeking to coordinate threads, such as teaming, across our curriculum. We have already mapped where teaming experiences occur and have collected logistical information about these experiences. The present report provides further clarification of teaming practices and challenges associated with implementing formal teaming skill instruction and dealing with team dysfunction as it occurs. Future work includes collecting student input on their teaming experiences in the curriculum and developing ready-reference guides for faculty summarizing evidence-based practices for team formation, teaming instruction, and handling team dysfunction. This information feeds into our change model of building shared vision through departmental discussion and deliberation and supporting reflective teachers through processing the data from our curriculum and learning about and implementing evidence-based practices.

Mertz, B. E., & Bernal, A., & Cunningham, P., & Sangelkar, S. (2020, June), Work in Progress: Challenges with Teaming Instruction and Managing Dysfunction Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35619

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2020 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015