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Working Toward More Equitable Team Dynamics: Mapping Student Assets to Minimize Stereotyping and Task Assignment Bias

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2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 29, 2018

Start Date

April 29, 2018

End Date

May 2, 2018

Conference Session

Undergraduate Track - Technical Session II

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Undergraduate Education

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Paper Authors


Elisabeth (Lisa) Stoddard Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Elisabeth (Lisa) Stoddard is a geographer and an Assistant Teaching Professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she holds a joint appointment between undergraduate studies and the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program. She has been the recipient of multiple grants to examine issues of bias and stereotyping on student project teams, the impact this has on student learning, and tools and strategies to empower students and faculty to create more equitable team dynamics. Lisa has also worked with faculty to develop active and project-based learning techniques, including a focus on STEM and social justice, through conferences, workshops, and individual consultations. Lisa has published a number of book chapters and articles that focus on food, environmental, and social justice, particularly in the area of livestock production in the rural southern United States. Her work can be found in The Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Political Ecologies of Meat, and Critical Animal Geographies.

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Geoff Pfeifer Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Geoff Pfeifer is Associate Teaching Professor of Philosophy and International and Global Studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He teaches and publishes in the areas of social and political philosophy, applied ethics, and globalization/global justice. His work has appeared in Human Studies, The European Legacy, and The Journal of Global Ethics, Crisis and Critique, and Continental Thought and Theory. He is also the author of a number of book chapters as well as The New Materialism: Althusser, Badiou, and Žižek (Routledge, 2015). Additionally he is co-editor of Phenomenology and the Political (Roman and Littlefield International, forthcoming, 2016).

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Today’s STEM students will enter a diverse workforce and need to be prepared to work with people of diverse backgrounds. Research shows diverse teams are better at innovating and solving STEM-related problems, precisely because there are a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds that are brought to bear in working on these issues (Philips, Liljenquist, Neale, 2010; Rock, Grant, and Grey 2016). However, this assumes those working on teams can take advantage of that diversity and are not hampered by racial, gender, and other forms of bias. Recent studies show that issues of bias and stereotyping on student teams is prominent, particularly in STEM fields (Wolfe, Powell, Schisserman, and Kirshon, 2016). This results in reduced learning opportunities for all students, with compounded harms to the self-efficacy and retention rates of female students, students of color, and other underserved populations. We have created a set modules and resources for WPI’s first year, project-based seminar program (the Great Problems Seminars program) that attempt to help STEM students and faculty work through these issues with the goal of creating effective, equitable, and inclusive teams. This paper/presentation will detail the structure of these modules, some of the results from a study done in connection with them, and what we have learned along the way.


Phillips, Katherine W., Katie A. Liljenquist, and Margaret Neale. “Better Decisions Through Diversity” Kellogg Insight. October 2010.

Rock, David, Heidi Grant, and Jacqui Grey. “Diverse Teams Feel Less Comfortable- and That’s Why They Perform Better” in Harvard Business Review, September 2016.

Wolfe, Joanna, Beth Powell, Seth Schlisserman, Alexandra Kirshon. “Teamwork in Engineering Undergraduate Classes: What Problems Do Students Experience” Proceedings of the 123rd Annual Conference of the Association of Engineering Education (June) 2016.

Stoddard, E. L., & Pfeifer, G. (2018, April), Working Toward More Equitable Team Dynamics: Mapping Student Assets to Minimize Stereotyping and Task Assignment Bias Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--29598

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