(499d) Reflection Activities As a Pathway for Building Inclusive Team Culture (Work in progress)

Authors: 
Cole, J., Northwestern University
Engineering is a collaborative discipline often requiring the use of teams to solve complex problems. The ABET definition of “team” is a group that “consists of more than one person working toward a common goal and should include individuals of diverse backgrounds, skills, or perspectives.”[1] Diverse teams in engineering may include people of different disciplines, socioeconomic backgrounds, racial, ethnic, or gender groups, to name a few. Helping teams learn to create an environment that is inclusive becomes very important in engineering education.

As engineering instructors, we encourage teaming and collaboration to solve difficult problems or projects in our courses. ABET places such an emphasis on teaming that it devotes a student learning outcome to teaming: “an ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives.” Instructors often expect that students will gain experience about “effective” teaming through the practice of being on a team, without much in the way of instruction on how to be a team member. As a result, students may complete a team experience feeling positive or negative.

When we place students on teams we often neglect to guide them on developing team skills, thinking they’ll learn it by doing it. What is lacking is instruction on effective teaming and how to develop a culture of inclusivity and equity. This may lead to underrepresented students within teams experiencing bias, having their tasks shaped by stereotypes, or not having their work or ideas validated[2]. These experiences may impact how they feel about entering a new team experience, and may diminish their self-efficacy and sense of belonging.

This work-in-progress paper explores efforts by the author to use reflective practices to address the development of a “collaborative and inclusive environment.” At the beginning of the term, students in teams within the capstone design course sequence are assigned short reflection activities to get them to acknowledge bias[3], map their own strengths[4], and develop team charters. Over time students engage in reflection activities centered on how biases have influenced the roles they are in and how rotating roles can help to develop skills in new areas.

This current work does not specifically address teaching project management skills, including setting goals, planning tasks, meeting objectives, and leadership, but instead focuses on activities that encourage developing a collaborative and inclusive team environment.

To encourage students to engage in and construct meaning from the reflection activities, guidance for each reflection activity was provided as well as a degree of accountability through “graded” journal responses[5]. The activities include reviewing literature that may include topics of diverse teams[6] and/or bias and stereotypes on teams[3], developing personal and team asset maps or matrices[4], creating a team charter, reviewing team charter for stereotyped team roles, rotating roles, and peer evaluations.

In this paper we will share the progress of the pilot testing of these activities and the proposed plan for data collection.


[1] “Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs, 2019 – 2020 | ABET.” https://www.abet.org/accreditation/accreditation-criteria/criteria-for-a... (accessed Apr. 30, 2020).

[2] B. P. Jackson et al., “Board 124: Interpersonal Interactions that Foster Inclusion: Building Supports for Diversity in Engineering Teams,” presented at the 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Jun. 2018, Accessed: Apr. 30, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://peer.asee.org/board-124-interpersonal-interactions-that-foster-i....

[3] Lorelle Meadows, Denise Sekaquaptewa, and Marie Paratti, “Interactive Panel: Improving the Experiences of Marginalized Students on Engineering Design Teams. Paper ID # 11803,” presented at the 122nd Annual American Society for Engineering Education Conference, Seattle, Washington, 2015.

[4] Elisabeth Stoddard and Geoff Pfeifer, “Working Toward More Equitable Team Dynamics: Mapping Student Assets to Minimize Stereotyping and Task Assignment Bias: American Society for Engineering Education,” presented at the CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia, Apr. 2018, Accessed: Apr. 30, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.asee.org/public/conferences/113/papers/22206/view.

[5] J. A. Turns, G. Scalone, A. Arif, T. Lovins, and C. Atman, “Dimensions in Designing Reflection Activities,” in 2017 7th World Engineering Education Forum (WEEF), Nov. 2017, pp. 120–125, doi: 10.1109/WEEF.2017.8467101.

[6] Carol Mendin, Megan Lee, and Douglas Bang, “Point of View Affects How Science Is Done,” Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/point-of-view-affects-how-sci... (accessed Apr. 30, 2020).