One More Thing: Faculty Response to Increased Emphasis on Project Teams in Undergraduate Engineering Education
Committee ChairMilem, Jeffrey
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractTenured and tenure-track faculty members at institutions of higher education, especially those at Research I institutions, are being asked to do more than ever before. With rapidly changing technology, significant decreases in public funding, the shift toward privately funded research, and the ever increasing expectations of students for an education that adequately prepares them for professional careers, engineering faculty are particularly challenged by the escalating demands on their time. In 1996, the primary accreditation organization for engineering programs (ABET) adopted new criteria that required, among other things, engineering programs to teach students to function on multidisciplinary teams and to communicate effectively. In response, most engineering programs utilize project teams as a strategy for teaching these skills. The purpose of this qualitative study of tenured and tenure track engineering faculty at a Research I institution in the southwestern United States was to explore the variety of ways in which the engineering faculty responded to the demands placed upon them as a result of the increased emphasis on project teams in undergraduate engineering education. Social role theory and organizational climate theory guided the study. Some faculty viewed project teams as an opportunity for students to learn important professional skills and to benefit from collaborative learning but many questioned the importance and feasibility of teaching teamwork skills and had concerns about taking time away from other essential fundamental material such as mathematics, basic sciences and engineering sciences. Although the administration of the College of Engineering articulated strong support for the use of project teams in undergraduate education, the prevailing climate did little to promote significant efforts related to effective utilization of project teams. Too often, faculty were unwilling to commit sufficient time or effort to make project teamwork a truly valuable learning opportunity because those efforts were not perceived to be valuable and were rarely rewarded. Few formal professional development opportunities were available and few incentives were in place to encourage other informal efforts to develop the necessary skills. Those who committed significant effort to project teams were challenged by concerns about team composition, student accountability and assigning individual grades for group teamwork.
Degree ProgramHigher Education