Earlier this summer I attended the First Year Engineering Experience conference at the University of Pittsburgh. The conference afforded me an opportunity to meet with other engineering educators, discuss ideas, reflect on the topics and issues from the sessions, and chart new directions and collaborations. I met lots of great people and was inspired by what I heard. I’m already using many of the tips and techniques that I learned. At the conference I presented a paper about the correlation between being good at working in teams and being successful in graduating with an engineering degree at UTA.
Each semester a new batch of engineering students join one of UTA’s six departments offering an undergraduate degree in engineering. They all sign up for an interdisciplinary Introduction to Engineering course. Students in the class are assigned by the instructors to interdisciplinary teams of six students each. At the end of the semester, each student is required to submit a peer evaluation of each of his or her teammates as well as evaluate their own participation and contribution to the team’s activities. The instructors read each of the team members’ evaluations and note when a student consistently earns low marks from his or her peers. Those students rated low enough in peer evaluations for the instructors to reduce their project score are defined as “team underachievers.” Dr. Peterson and I hypothesized that there was a correlation between team performance in this first semester interdisciplinary group work effort and ultimate success in the College of Engineering. For this analysis we identified team underachievers from the Fall 2008 semester and tracked their academic career at UTA.
We compared the number of team underachievers in each of the categories to a randomly-selected group of students from the same peer group who were not deemed team underachievers to look for significant differences in their educational path. A chi-square test for association was performed to see if there was a relationship between team achievement in the Introduction to Engineering class and the current educational status of students who took the class in the fall 2008 semester. The results showed that the null hypothesis was rejected and there is a relationship between team achievement in the Introduction to Engineering class and educational status of the student population sampled.
These results suggest that while it not is necessary to be good at team work to be successful in university level education it is necessary to be successful in engineering education. So work on your teamwork skills students. It will be important to you now and later!
If you are interested in seeing the complete statistical analysis feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a copy of the paper presented.
Written by Dr. Bonnie Boardman