2022 First-Year Engineering Experience

Work in Progress: Using CATME in Team Development of One-Semester-Long Open-Ended First-Year Engineering Student Design Projects

Presented at Technical Session M1

Teamwork skills are widely regarded as one of the most important and transferrable skills in both academic and professional environments. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) learning outcomes for teamwork include “an ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences” and “an ability to function effectively on a team” (ABET 2020). These criteria are intrinsically linked to the idea of multidisciplinary collaboration. Being able to work effectively in multidisciplinary teams is a highly sought-after professional skill for engineers. In engineering education, studies have shown that the integration of collaborative work into course content can enhance project-based learning outcomes by developing effective teamwork and communication skills.

Within engineering design education, it is essential to help students develop effective teamwork skills and critical engineering design abilities, such as innovation and open-mindedness. However, it can be challenging for instructors to precisely assess an individual contribution to the completion of team goals. Peer feedback allows the participants to develop and improve their teamwork skills via giving feedback on team members’ competencies and receiving feedback on one’s own competencies. These competencies include contribution, interaction, project, and time management, as well as task-specific skillsets. One advantage of using peer feedback is that it captures interactions when an instructor is not present. Therefore, they could provide additional support for assessing individuals on a team. The goal of this study is to apply more quantitative peer evaluation to help students establish and be aware of healthy team dynamics at the storming stage. Past literature shows a web-based tool, CATME (Comprehensive Assessment of Team Member Effectiveness), could reduce team conflicts and help assess individual contributions to a team.

In the context of an open-ended project in a large private institute, each project lasts for one semester. Three hundred first-year students participate in this group activity with a team formation of two to four members. The primary objective of the project is to build a functional prototype that can solve a real-world problem. Some of the past examples were prosthetic arms, smart water bottles, or self-watering flowerpots. The team will meet regularly and present their progress four times throughout the semester. Each team was assigned a mentor to provide guidance on the technical design of their prototype. Currently, class instructors track team performance using Google Forms with a single peer rating of 15 and comments. In contrast, CATME peer evaluation uses five dimensions of teamwork of CIKEH: Contributing to the team’s work: Interacting with teammates; Keeping the team on track; Expecting quality work; Having relevant knowledge skills, and abilities.

The current team development fits the description of the four-stage model developed by Bruce Tuckman: forming, storming, norming, and performing stages. It is common for the storming stage to lead to more conflicts within the team as the team members start interacting more and more. Competing for leadership and inter-personal conflicts become the major scenes. This study aims to use CATME to improve team development. The research question is: can CATME helps to mitigate conflicts and identify leadership in a multidisciplinary team environment?

To answer the research question, CATME will be used to help with team development in a class of 13 students for a test run. The students will be split up into five groups, two experimental groups are using CATME peer evaluation, another two experimental groups are using conventional Google survey form, and the last group does not use any peer-evaluation software. Moreover, an end-of-semester survey will be used to learn about students’ experience in CATME. The future plan is to implement CATME in cross-school Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) and senior design projects.

  1. Dr. Rui Li New York University [biography]
  2. Dr. Jack Bringardner Orcid 16x16http://orcid.org/0000-0002-5980-384X New York University Tandon School of Engineering [biography]
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