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Title:Exploring the nature of students’ collaborative interactions during a hands-on ill-structured engineering design task
Author(s):Tucker, Taylor
Advisor(s):Mercier, Emma; Goldstein, Molly
Contributor(s):Liebenberg, Leon; Wooldridge, Abigail
Department / Program:Curriculum and Instruction
Discipline:Curriculum and Instruction
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):task design, engineering education
Abstract:Engineering education is experiencing a shift in curriculum format toward more emphasis on collaborative design work. This can be accomplished through means such as collaborative ill-structured tasks, which provide students with experience authentic to industry. However, research on effective ill-structured task design in the context of undergraduate group problem solving is relatively limited. Studies have explored how to design and construct ill-structured tasks that effectively engage students and promote higher learning outcomes and group collaboration, but these tasks have primarily been limited to two-dimensional representations that lack opportunity for students to realize their design implications in the physical world. While some tasks may include three-dimensional representation of task content, little is known about the influence on students’ collaborative interaction that can result from the use of physical, hands-on task products in this context. This study seeks to address this gap by characterizing the nature of students’ interactions as they worked in small groups on an ill-structured engineering design task for which a physical object was a central component. The study uses mixed methods to analyze the interactions and experiences of twenty undergraduate engineering students in five groups as they worked together to dissect a product, model its components, and make justified design changes to their model. Ethnographic observations were recorded during multiple dissection sessions for each of the five groups. Thematic analysis was used to identify initial trends in the data and to develop a coding scheme, which was then applied to characterize participants’ behaviors and collaborative processes at both individual and group levels. Frequencies of codes were compared against task scores to investigate the impact of participation in identified behaviors and processes on group performance. Results indicated positive relationships between 1) participation in dissection and task scores, and 2) participation in collaborative reflection and task scores, both of which are meaningful for future collaborative task design. The study supports the evolution of collaborative engineering problem solving by contributing to our understanding of the impact of hands-on learning in design tasks.
Issue Date:2021-04-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Taylor Tucker
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-09-17
Date Deposited:2021-05

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