Infoscience

Journal article

Undergraduate group projects: Challenges and learning experiences

Working in groups and managing projects are important professional skills for engineers, and there is a growing demand to teach and assess such skills. But what should be taught and when? Tuckman’s famous “stages of development of performing groups” provides a framework for understanding the types of challenges which groups face. Yet, as with any abstract model, it will not be transferred into students’ practice if they do not see it as relevant to their lived experiences. In 2014, a new course exploring the nexus of social and engineering issues in relation to the global challenges facing humanity was added to the obligatory program for all first year engineering students. Among the many noble goals of this course, in addition to gaining a more nuanced view of the global challenges from both an engineering and social science perspective, are the development of transversal skills such as team work, communication, presentation, library research and ethical engagement. The taught material about team work was presented online, allowing for the use learning analytics on students’ online responses to assess how well the “stages of group formation” literature matched students’ experiences. It also allowed us to consider how students’ perceptions of the challenges they will face differed from challenges they actually did face, as well as the implications of this for how they should be taught about group processes.

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