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Improving the Teaching of Teamwork skills in Engineering and Computer Science


California State University, Northridge IMETI 2010 * Overview Teamwork The Neglected Engineering Skill What is Teamwork? How Do We Know When Teamwork is Happening? – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Improving the Teaching of Teamwork skills in Engineering and Computer Science

Improving the Teaching of Teamwork skills in
Engineering and Computer Science
  • Robert W. Lingard
  • California State University, Northridge

  • Teamwork The Neglected Engineering Skill
  • What is Teamwork?
  • How Do We Know When Teamwork is Happening?
  • Results from Recent Studies
  • How Can We Improve Teamwork Learning?
  • Conclusions

Teamwork The Neglected Engineering Skill
  • Most today would agree that teamwork is important
    in engineering and computer science.
  • Our industrial partners tell us they need
    graduates who can work effectively in teams.
  • ABET demands that we teach teamwork and that our
    graduates can demonstrate teamwork skills

Teamwork The Neglected Engineering Skill
  • Most educational programs do not adequately
    address the teaching of teamwork skills.
  • Neither do they assess how well these skills are
    being mastered.
  • Consequently, the learning of these skills is
    usually a matter of chance.

Teamwork Teaching Fallacies
  • Its not the responsibility of Engineering and
    Computer Science faculty to teach teamwork and
    communication skills
  • But then who does it?
  • Experience is the best teacher
  • Poor team experiences create negative feelings
    regarding teamwork
  • Students will learn to work on teams once they
    graduate and get jobs
  • Their lack of teamwork skills can make it harder
    to get jobs in the first place

What is Teamwork?
Teamwork in Soccer (Fútbol)
Teamwork on the Job
What Makes a Team Successful?
  • It is composed of individuals with unique, yet
    synergistic talents.
  • Each member understands and carries out his or
    her responsibilities.
  • Members communicate effectively with one another,
    sharing ideas and listening to the suggestions of
  • Members request help and offer help as needed.
  • The team stays focused and members share a common

Developing Measurable Teamwork Performance
  • A specific set of individual teamwork skills was
    developed based on input from the following
  • Current students
  • Alumni
  • Faculty
  • Industry Partners

Specific Teamwork Skills
  • Attend (nearly all) team meetings
  • Arrive on time for (nearly all) team meetings
  • Communicate clearly with other team members
  • Share knowledge with others
  • Introduce new ideas
  • Openly express opinions

Specific Teamwork Skills (Contd)
  • Consider suggestions from others
  • Adopt suggestions from others
  • Try to understand what others say
  • Provide help to other team members
  • Ask for help form other team members
  • Complete assignments on time

Specific Teamwork Skills (Contd)
  • Complete assignments with acceptable quality
  • Do research and gather information
  • Do a fair share of the work
  • Be committed to team goals
  • Show respect for others
  • Distinguish between the important and the trivial

How Do We Know When Teamwork Is Happening?
  • Make independent observations
  • Evaluate the evidence of individual team member
  • Conduct peer reviews

Independent Observation
  • Instructors, lab assistants, or
    outside observers attend team meetings
  • But this observation can influence student
  • If meetings are held online the monitoring can be
  • Only some team activities are practical to observe

Evaluating Individual Team Member Contributions
  • Individual contributions can be independently
  • Requiring students to post contributions online
    is an easy way to gain access to
    these contributions
  • But, not all teamwork skills involve artifacts
    produced by individual team members

Peer Evaluations
  • Each team member evaluates the performance of
    other members
  • Evaluations should be anonymous and include self
  • Team members are in the best position to evaluate
  • But, students are often reluctant to be critical
    of fellow students

Peer Evaluation Form
Results from Recent Studies
Teamwork Attribute Percent Achieved
Demonstrate an ability to do research and gather information 96.3
Generally tried to understand what other team members were saying 86.4
. . . 74.2-84.1
Show an ability to distinguish between the important and the trivial 69.9
Communicate clearly with other team members 68.1
Help someone on the team 66.4
Ask for help from someone on the team 63.9

How Do We Improve the Learning of Teamwork Skills?
  • Identify the skills where improvement is most
  • Develop tools and techniques to improve leaning
    of those skills.
  • Reassess to determine whether the new approach
  • Revise approach as needed and repeat.

The Ask For Help and Provide Help Skills
  • People (especially students) tend not to ask for
    help when they need it.
  • A possible solution is to reward both the
    requesting and giving of help.
  • We created the Help Certificate to try to
    accomplish that.

Help Certificate
Clear Communication Within the Team
  • Engineering students are conditioned to work
    independently and tend to be introverted.
  • By giving assignments in which each member of the
    team must independently come up with a solution,
    and then present their solution to the team,
    communication can be improved.

Sharing a Solution with the Team
Distinguishing Between the Important and the
  • Engineering and Computer Science students are
    Fact-Finders in the Kolbe sense.
  • That is, they can get bogged down in details.
    Analysis Paralysis can set in.
  • We added an item to the required Meeting Report
    Form for student projects requiring them to
    identify the current important issues or problems.

Meeting Report
Help Team Members Focus on the Important Issues
  • It is vitally important that Engineering and
    Computer Science students learn to work
    effectively on teams.
  • It is less clear how to provide an effective
    learning environment in which they can do this.
  • The approach recommended is one of continual
    improvement in which the areas of greatest
    weakness are identified and tools and techniques
    are developed to improve those specific skills.
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