The development of design, problem solving, and communications skills within a team setting is a crucial component of the education of a globally competitive engineer. The importance of these attributes has been repeatedly recognized, by both the National Academy of Engineering and Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), the accrediting body for engineering programs in the United States. Unfortunately, very little is known about the dynamics of engineering team-based engineering design and problem solving processes. How do the team processes of experts differ from those of novices? How do students develop the necessary skills over time? In this paper we present background on the problem and a Verbal Protocol Analysis (VPA) pilot study of freshman engineering team design and team processes as a step in the development of an empirically based understanding to address these questions. The research method used was based on the methods and the design categories used by Atman, Cardella, and Robin1. An important distinction is that Atman's work was exclusive to individuals while our pilot used student teams. The pilot study was conducted in an introduction to engineering class. Data was collected and analyzed for four teams (three teams consisting of four team members and one team consisting of three team members). The pilot study resulted in the development of a modified verbal coding schema for team design processes. Broader findings of the pilot study included a difference between team and individual design activities, a need to add process to the content categories analyzed, a need to improve our instrumentation, and a need to acquire better software for the coding and analysis of the design activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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