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Team-Based Learning in the Design Modules of a New, Integrated, 2nd Year Curriculum at UBC

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The Department of Mechanical Engineering at UBC restructured its entire second year curriculum last year (2004-2005) to address numerous deficiencies associated with the conventional instructional model of numerous separate courses with a heavy lecture component. The design portion of the curriculum underwent the most dramatic restructuring – it is now taught in two blocks of four and three weeks, respectively, and the students learn in a thoroughly team-oriented modality which permeates all aspects of the course. In this paper, we explain the rationale for the structure of the design course, describe in detail how the course works, and provide a preliminary assessment of the impact on students' learning.
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Team-Based Learning in the Design Modules of a
New, Integrated, 2nd Year Curriculum at UBC
Antony J Hodgson, Peter Ostafichuk and James Sibley
Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of British Columbia
ahodgson@mech.ubc.ca
ABSTRACT
The Department of Mechanical Engineering at
UBC restructured its entire second year
curriculum last year (2004-2005) to address
numerous deficiencies associated with the
conventional instructional model of numerous
separate courses with a heavy lecture
component. The design portion of the
curriculum underwent the most dramatic
restructuring – it is now taught in two blocks of
four and three weeks, respectively, and the
students learn in a thoroughly team-oriented
modality which permeates all aspects of the
course. In this paper, we explain the rationale
for the structure of the design course, describe in
detail how the course works, and provide a
preliminary assessment of the impact on
students’ learning.
INTRODUCTION
The Department of Mechanical Engineering at
the University of British Columbia (UBC) has
just completed the first year of an innovative
new curriculum in engineering education. The
program, known as Mech 2, is a carefully
designed approach aimed at developing second
year mechanical engineering students’ analytical,
practical, and design skills. Mech 2 is taught by
a team of instructors and is fully integrated in
content and delivery. It aims to foster cross-
connections between the various sub-disciplines
of mechanical engineering and related subjects in
electrical engineering, materials science and
mathematics. Design plays an important role in
the new course format. Mech 2 completely
replaces a conventional course-based curriculum
for the approximately 120 second year
mechanical engineering students at UBC.
In a traditional engineering program, students
take many diverse courses at the same time and
spend a great deal of energy juggling
disconnected assignments, projects and mid-term
exams. A consequence of this system is that
most students tend to compartmentalize
information according to specific courses and
they do not see the connections between related
topics. The timing of related material from
different subjects is often left to chance; required
background material in one course may come
from another course but not be presented at an
appropriate time. In the terms of design, the
conventional curriculum does not facilitate
communication and collaboration between
instructors of engineering science and
engineering design.
In the Mech 2 program, students take only four
courses and they complete them in series. The
program and the courses are structured to ensure
good communication within a team of instructors
who together cover all disciplines. The first
course (MECH 220) is a four week practicum in
which students rotate through four one-week
workshops in machine shop practice,
instrumentation and electronics, CAD, and
drafting. The second course (MECH 221) is ten
weeks long and covers material in engineering
science including rigid body dynamics, solid
mechanics, mathematics, materials engineering,
and electrical circuits. The second half of Mech
2 begins in January with four weeks of a design
course (MECH 223) in which the students apply
material from MECH 221 to a practical design
project. The projects culminate with a
competition between all the student teams
followed by formal oral presentations and the
submission of formal written reports. The
remaining course (MECH 222) is an engineering
science course that covers thermodynamics, fluid
mechanics, and mathematics. It is taught over a
seven week period using the same structure as
the first term engineering science course (MECH
221). After the completion of MECH 222, there
is a second MECH 223 design project, this time
lasting three weeks and focusing on
thermodynamics and fluid mechanics.
All courses in Mech 2 have the same general
schedule: Thursdays are left free for field trips
or other major events; the remaining four days
begin with a problem session and have 3 hours
of class time, along with dedicated slots for labs,
design studios, computer labs, shop time or team
meeting times.
The integration in Mech 2 supports the design
component by ensuring students have the
necessary background before they begin practical
design exercises. During the engineering science
courses, students receive instruction in the theory
that underlies the projects. Likewise, as students
begin their design projects in MECH 223, they
receive lectures on design theory, workshops on
group dynamics, and computer labs on CAD and
material selection. Finally, the MECH 220
practicum prepares students for the construction
of physical devices and the preparation of
supporting drawings required in the design
projects.
TEAM-BASED LEARNING
A team-based structure is central to the new
design modules and is used in every aspect of the
course. We adopted this structure for two main
reasons: (1) engineering is, at heart, a team-
based enterprise – virtually all real engineering
work is done in teams and we consider it crucial
to introduce students to teamwork as early in
their studies as possible, and (2) numerous
research studies have shown that team-based
learning is far superior to conventional
instructional techniques almost without regard to
subject area.
The particular version of team-based learning
(TBL) we adopted is based on the work of
Michaelsen [ref]. TBL can be considered to be a
form of active or cooperative learning, but it
embodies significant philosophical differences.
In particular, most cooperative learning
advocates recommend that significant effort be
put into instruction on proper team functioning,
whereas TBL advocates argue that the correct
incentive structure naturally leads to productive
interactions. We adopted a middle road – we
included some direct instruction in team
functioning and provided structured
opportunities for offering feedback to
teammates, but we also used the structural
incentives described by Michaelsen and found
that they did substantially mitigate problems that
many people have experienced with group work.
The general principles of Michaelsen’s version
of TBL include the following:
Heterogeneous groups of ~6-8 students
Individual accountability
Team assignments that promote both
learning and team development
Frequent and immediate feedback
In general, the approach turns conventional
instruction on its head. In conventional classes,
instructors ask their students to do the readings
in advance, but do not really require them to do
so, so class effectively becomes the place to
introduce concepts and work out simple
examples. More complex examples get worked
out in problem sessions or by the student
working alone after class hours. In TBL, the
students do their preliminary learning through
assigned readings in preparation for a ‘Readiness
Assurance Process’ quiz (RAP) which precedes
the first class session on a topic. Problem
sessions with a TA allow students to work
through simple problems and concepts prior to
class. In class, students are asked to work with
their teams on more complex problems and to
present their results to other teams or to the
whole class. A course is generally broken into
several modules, each lasting about 6-8 class
hours. In our course, each module begins with a
RAP and then follows it up with several problem
sessions interwoven with several 2 or 3 hour
class periods. These ideas are described in more
detail below.
Heterogeneous Groups:
Students most often want to work in
homogeneous groups – they want to be with their
friends and not engage in the difficult work
associated with learning to get along with a
group of new people. However, homogeneous
groups do not contain the breadth of experience
that allows each individual to make a distinct
contribution to the overall team’s functioning
and it is not a good model for future work life.
In UBC’s mechanical engineering program, we
have the added issue that the students taking
Mech 2 are registered in one of two programs:
the standard mechanical engineering program
(90 students) or the mechatronics program (30
students). In the two earlier courses (MECH 220
and 221), the mechatronics students were placed
in their own sections for labs and problem
sessions, so they were not as well integrated into
the whole class. Timetable and room and
equipment/workstation constraints required that
we section our course into four groups of 30
students for labs and problem sessions, so in the
design course we purposely mixed the
mechatronics students in with the rest of the
class to ensure that each group of 30 students
had access to the unique perspective possessed
by these students.
We called each group of 30 students a division
and named them after a famous mechanical
engineering designer of the past century:
Edison, Fuller, Goddard and Henry (in previous
classes, the sections were named after famous
applied scientists: Archimedes, Bernoulli,
Carnot and Da Vinci). We further subdivided
the divisions into 5 teams of 6 members each and
ensured that there were 1 or 2 mechatronics
members on each team. Furthermore, we
carefully selected each group’s members to
ensure that we had heterogeneity in
psychological profile (according to the Meyers-
Briggs personality assessment tool), grades in
previous courses, tool handiness, communication
and language ability, and even car ownership.
This heterogeneity ensures that each team
benefits from a variety of different perspectives,
skills and resources. The teams stayed together
throughout the entire course.
Individual Accountability:
Many instructors and students have been
disappointed with their experiences of group
work – often one student does not do what the
others expect of them (i.e., is a free-rider) or
some students decide that it is too much bother
to keep some of the other students in the loop.
These problems are often exacerbated as group
size increases, but can show up even in relatively
small groups of 3 or 4 members. Four important
structural reasons for this in many versions of
group work are:
Lack of individual accountability
Difficulty meeting outside class
Large group reports
Global group marks
In TBL, individuals are accountable for their
preparation, primarily that associated with doing
the assigned readings prior to taking the
Readiness Assessment Process quiz that begins
each block of work. The RAP quiz is described
in more detail below, but is taken first by the
students individually and subsequently by the
team as a whole. The peer pressure associated
with trying to maximize the team’s mark ensures
that students feel a strong commitment to
individual preparation prior to class.
The team-based structure of TBL ensures that
difficulties in meeting with one’s group are
minimized because class time is allocated to
team discussion. Individual preparation is left to
outside class hours, so students can prepare for
their team work according to their own
schedules.
Traditional group reports actually diminish team
interaction because each student typically gets
assigned responsibility for one section of it and
the final product is a mishmash of the various
contributions. There is often much stress
involved in the final assembly and editing,
especially if one or more components come late
and/or are judged inadequate by others on the
team. With TBL, the team reporting is almost
always comparatively simple (typically a
recommendation of some form – see below), but
this recommendation follows extensive analysis
and discussion. During the discussion as the
team attempts to formulate its final
recommendation, team members rely on one
another’s individual preparation and
contributions to inform their decision, and
students are subjected to strong peer pressure to
ensure that their contribution is up to the
expected standard.
Finally, in traditional group work, the whole
group receives the same mark. This almost
always leads to feelings that the marking is
unfair because it fails to differentiate between the
contributions of the different group members and
implicitly encourages ‘free-riding’. With TBL,
the students are told in advance that they will
have an opportunity to evaluate one another’s
work, and this peer assessment acts as a
multiplier on the team grade. There is therefore
an incentive for each student to ensure that they
are perceived by the team as having made
contributions comparable to everyone else.
Team Assignments:
In TBL, the design of team assignments is
critical – proper design promotes both content
learning and team development. In traditional
group work, the product of teamwork is a large
document – a report, a presentation, a model, etc.
In TBL, the product is quite simple – a decision,
a choice or a recommendation, for example.
Such assignments typically generate high levels
of user interaction, whereas traditional products
of teamwork often lead to students dividing up
the work and completing it individually, which
limits interaction. We will present examples of
our team assignments below.
Frequent and Immediate Feedback:
One of the strongest motivators for learning is
rapid feedback on whether a learning activity
helped students achieve their learning goals. The
TBL approach provides two main ways of
obtaining this rapid feedback – RAP quizzes and
in-class reporting of team assignments.
1. RAP Quizzes:
As mentioned above, we assign readings at the
beginning of each block and administer the quiz
in the first class of the block. The RAP quizzes
are structured as multiple choice tests that assess
two main things: students’ basic comprehension
of concepts found in the readings and their
ability to apply the concepts to simple situations.
Examples of these two types of questions follow:
Basic Comprehension: Which of the following
statements is NOT true of “technology push”
products?
A. Gore-Tex is a good example
B. Breakthrough products are typically
introduced this way
C. The product development process is much
riskier than “market pull” developments
D. A specific product does not typically have to
be identified in advance of development
Simple Application: Which of the following
business strategies is likely to carry the least
financial risk for a company that has developed a
new material?
A. Identify a market for and develop a single
product based on the new material
B. Develop a range of forms and sizes of the
material to sell as stock material to other
businesses who will use the material in their
products
C. Develop a manufacturing plant which can
turn out the material in a wide variety of
forms and sizes, but manufacture only in
response to orders from other businesses
Although these quizzes are multiple choice, they
are not easy – typical scores for individuals
average about 50%. Once students finish taking
the quizzes individually (which takes about 20-
25 minutes), they hand in their answer sheets and
immediately start working on them in their
teams. While they are taking the quiz as a team,
their individual exams are scored electronically.
The team answer sheets are of the ‘Scratch &
Win’ variety – when the students have chosen an
answer and scratched off the corresponding spot,
they find out if they are correct or not. If not,
they are allowed to scratch again up to twice
more; they receive 4 points if they get the
correct answer on the first scratch, 2 on the
second, and 1 on the third. The point, however,
is that they find out immediately whether or not
they are right.
When the teams finish their quizzes, we project
the aggregated results from the individual
quizzes on the board, along with a detailed
breakdown of what the answer distributions were
for each question. We then have a brief,
focussed discussion about the questions that the
students feel they understand the least AFTER
having discussed the question with their
teammates and learning the correct answer; this
debriefing is very high-energy and productive
since the students are highly motivated to learn
about issues that neither they nor their teammates
understand. The students also quickly learn
which of their teammates have held back in the
team discussions – if a student got an answer
right but did not persuade their teammates (either
because they were shy or because their
teammates did not let them speak), the team is
highly motivated to listen to that student in the
future. Interestingly, the team typically
outscores their best individual by 10-15%,
although this ‘superscore’ usually only occurs
once teams learn to value the thoughts of
members other than the top individual.
2. In-Class Reporting of Team Assignments:
Traditional team assignments require complex
write-ups and take a considerable amount of time
to mark – students often do not get the material
back for days or even weeks. By this time, they
have forgotten the assignment and the feedback
loop is not properly closed.
With TBL, the assignments require the students
to make a decision that is easy to report in class.
For example, in our course, we gave an
assignment that lasted three class hours.
Students were given a crash course in
mechanical components and principles of sizing
them, and then asked to roughly design a
mechanism for lifting a rocker arm using either a
hydraulic cylinder or an electric motor. Each
group was required to report the estimated cost
of their device by posting their estimated cost on
the board at the front of the classroom, and the
mark they received was inversely related to the
cost they reported.
However, before marks were assigned, there was
a class discussion in which the various teams
were allowed to ask questions of other teams and
challenge their designs. If a team could not
support its decisions in light of a challenge from
another team, they were forced to withdraw their
design and re-estimate their costs. The design
that got the best mark was therefore the one that
survived challenges and had the lowest cost at
the end. This marking scheme made it
impossible for students to do the assignment
half-heartedly – if they made poor estimates,
their costs were high, and if they neglected key
components, their design would be found out
through challenges from other students. In
general, we found that this assignment was very
successful, although we did find that students are
initially not all that good at explaining their
designs or presenting the justifications for their
decisions, so it is challenging to keep the whole
class discussion at a high energy level.
However, we think that presenting technical
work effectively is a key professional skill and
well worth developing through practice, so this is
not a reason to not do these assignments.
TOPICS IN MECH 223 & OVERALL
COURSE DESIGN
The overall purpose of this first course in design
is to introduce students to the generic design
process, to familiarize them with the key
mechanical components and fabrication
processes, to make them aware of the broader
context within which design is done, and to give
them practice in applying the design process to a
real project, supporting their design choices with
engineering analysis and presenting and
discussing their work.
To accomplish these goals within the overall
design of the Mech 2 program, we opted to offer
the design course in two blocks – one of 4 weeks
in length and the other of 3 weeks.
The first design block introduces students to the
design process and offers a ‘crash course’ in
mechanical components and fabrication, while
the second block addresses the process of
refining designs and brings in concerns such as
failure mode analysis, ergonomics, design for
assembly, and intellectual property issues.
Integrated throughout the course is material on
material selection, technical writing and
presentation, and professionalism.
SPECIFIC COMPONENTS OF MECH 223
We have already discussed several key
components of the design course, MECH 223.
These include the readings, the Readiness
Assurance Process quizzes, and the in-class
assignments. In addition to these components,
we used various other class assignments, along
with problem sets, computer labs, design and
machine shop sessions, various special tutorial
sessions, and two major design projects. These
other elements are briefly outlined below.
Class
In addition to the in-class team exercises
described above, we offered students two
opportunities to closely examine a common
electromechanical system – an inkjet printer. In
the first session, students had been introduced to
the major classes of mechanical components and
were then asked to take apart the printer in order
to identify how the various parts were used to
accomplish various functions. In the second
session, students disassembled the printer in
order to assess how well the designers observed
the principles of Design For Assembly.
Figure 1. ‘Hands-on’ in-class exercise –
students study the mechanical components used
in an inkjet printer.
Problem Sets
When we first designed this course, we treated
the problem sets the same way we would in a
conventional course – that is, as an occasion for
the students to work on more complex problems
than they could handle in class. However, we
soon learned that the kinds of problems that we
wanted students to work on required them to
develop and exercise judgement, and the TAs
were uncomfortable guiding the students in this
role. We therefore switched the format of the
problem sets during the second block. We
classified all the learning objectives we had
come up with for the course into Knowledge,
Skills or Judgement. For the most part, we had
students develop their knowledge through the
assigned readings, skills through the problem
sessions (augmented with mini-lectures of 5-20
minutes in class) and judgement through the
team assignments. This switch in emphasis from
judgement to skill in the problem sessions
enabled the TAs to feel much more comfortable
leading these sessions.
Projects
Each block also features a challenging design
project strongly related to the material presented
in the preceding integrated module. The first
project this year was inspired by the Cassini-
Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan. It focused
on kinematics, dynamics, electronics, and
materials and involved an increasingly difficult
series of challenges on a two-dimensional
inclined playfield. Students had to design, build,
and operate a ballistically-launched vehicle
(Cassini) that had to travel along the playing
surface and then release a second vehicle
(Huygens) towards a target. Teams were
awarded points for launching automatically by
referencing an electronic launch signal, for
separating the Cassini and Huygens vehicles in a
zone that was defined at the start of each round
of competition, for having Huygens reach a
target (representing the moon Titan), and for
having Cassini reach the end of the table with
position and velocity appropriate for orbit around
Saturn. Score bonuses and penalties were then
applied based on the weight and cost of the
vehicles, and on the time required to complete
the mission. A photograph from the competition
is shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. First project in MECH 223 –
recreation of the Cassini-Huygens mission to
Saturn and Titan.
The second project focused on thermodynamics
and fluid mechanics, and was phrased in terms of
the transportation of dangerous goods by ocean-
going vessels. Teams were required to design
and construct a small cargo ship powered by
compressed air and were awarded points based
on the volume of cargo that they successfully
transported through increasingly difficult
manoeuvres. There was a cost score based on
the volume of ship as well as the amount of
compressed air used. For each run, teams had to
predict their time to complete the manoeuvre and
they lost points for not making their predicted
transit time. Large penalties were imposed for
boats that lost cargo, became stranded, or
capsized. The competition was held at a large
swimming pool; a photograph picturing the
winning boat is shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Second project in MECH 223 –
students built cargo vessels to transport bulk
cargo across a pool using pressurized soda
bottles as the energy source.
The structure of both project competitions was
such that important parameters (for example, the
playfield inclination in the first project) were not
revealed until the beginning of a competition
round. This forced teams to include adjustability
in their designs and to develop and use
analytical/numerical models for predicting
performance. Human intervention was not
permitted during the competition so teams
utilized electromechanical systems for
autonomous time and distance measurement,
control actions, and so on.
Design Labs and Machine Shop Sessions
During the course, students had regular times set
aside for meeting with one another and
performing both machining and assembly tasks.
Students had access to a shop, but for second
year students, tool use was restricted – lathes and
milling machines were not permitted, but
bandsaws, drill presses, brakes and grinding
wheels were.
Computer Labs
Students completed one 2 hour computer lab per
week. In MECH 220, students had already been
introduced to solid modelling and drafting; in
MECH 223, we extended their abilities by
teaching them how to create complete technical
drawings, how to use a top-down design and
modelling approach, and how to use mechanism
simulation and animation tools. In addition, we
conducted several labs on Ashby’s computer-
based material selection process.
Special Tutorial Sessions
We had three special sessions on group
dynamics led by a pair of educational
psychologists to help students understand that
people see the world and respond to it in very
different ways, and that if they understand these
different approaches they can understand what
might be going on in their teams. They are also
taught how to be proactive in addressing issues
in working with one another and are given
several opportunities to talk with their teammates
about how their group work is going. We
believe that these session were very helpful in
minimizing problems that arose during the term.
We also invited an industrial designer to class on
two occasions to discuss the role of industrial
design in larger product design projects and to
run a 2 hour workshop on rapid visualization and
communication of conceptual ideas. This was
particularly useful in helping students understand
what kinds of information are communicated at
various stages of a design and what tools are
appropriate for these purposes.
Final Examinations
In MECH 223, we were assigned two
examination slots because of the increased credit
load carried by the course. We took advantage
of this to change the way the final exam was run.
Instead of the traditional analysis-based exam
questions, we ran two very different types of
exam. The first aimed primarily at testing
knowledge (mainly through multiple choice and
short answer questions) and skills (through
relatively short, focussed questions). The second
exam was more like an engineering essay exam;
we presented the students with a variant of a
situation they had come across in their design
projects and asked them to respond to it. For
example, we told them that the rules for the
cargo-carrying competition had been changed –
fuel was now considerably more expensive,
freight rates were considerably higher if cargo
could be delivered quickly, and cargo could no
longer be loaded inside the hulls, but only on the
deck. This made a catamaran design more
plausible than it had been in the real competition.
They had to decide whether or not it was
reasonable to pursue a catamaran option (that is,
to decide if this option would likely be able to
turn a profit), and then present their reasoning in
the form of a short essay with references to
calculations that were included as appendices.
Students were told that we would not look at
their calculations unless they were properly
referred to in the main text; this encouraged
them to lay out their work carefully and to make
decisions about WHAT they had to calculate, not
just HOW to do so.
EVALUATION BY STUDENTS
At the completion of Mech 2, student
perceptions were gauged using a series of
anonymous surveys. The surveys were not
mandatory and the response rates ranged from
52% to 58%. Each course in Mech 2 had a
separate survey which examined the
effectiveness of various activities in that course.
0%
5%
10%
15%
20%
25%
30%
35%
40%
45%
Very effecti ve Effec tive Some what
effective Not at all effective
Percent of Respondents
MECH 223 (TBL) MECH 221/2 (non-TBL)
Figure 4. Comparison of student response to
MECH 223 (Team-Based Learning) and the
engineering-science-based Mech 2 courses.
For both the TBL design course (MECH 223)
and the non-TBL engineering science courses
(MECH 221 and MECH 222), students were
asked to rate the effectiveness of the
lectures/classes towards their professional
development. Figure 4 shows a comparison of
the student-rated effectiveness for the different
courses. As shown, the TBL design classes
received a significantly more positive rating than
the non-TBL engineering science lectures. In
particular, over 70% of students rated the TBL
classes as either “effective” or “very effective”
compared to 46% for the non-TBL classes.
Likewise, while 7% of students rated the TBL
classes as “not at all effective”, this number
jumped to 13% for the non-TBL classes.
When students were asked more specifically
about the use of TBL in MECH 223, they rated it
effective in general in terms of learning the
course content, making the course more
enjoyable, and developing team skills (Figure 5).
Of particular interest, the TBL approach was
rated as being either “effective” or “very
effective” by 60% of the students for making the
course more enjoyable, and by 75% of the
students for developing team skills. Although
comprehensive comparative data is not readily
available, anecdotal evidence and exam scores
suggest student understanding of the material in
MECH 223 was at least as good as in similar
courses from previous years. Thus, without
diminishing the learning of content, the TBL
approach seems to have enhanced course
enjoyment and team skills development.
0%
5%
10%
15%
20%
25%
30%
35%
40%
45%
50%
Very Effective Effective Somewhat
Effective Not at all effective
Percent of Respondents
Learning course c ontent Developing team skills Making course more enjoyable
Figure 5. Student beliefs about value of Team-
Based Learning relative to more conventional
instructional modes on three criteria: course
content, team skills and enjoyableness of course.
LESSONS LEARNED
Overall, we are very happy with the redesign of
our second year design course. The projects
were considerably more complex than projects
previously conducted in second year and the
design process the students followed was more
formally specified than it has been in the past.
The use of Team-Based Learning was a
revolution in the way we have traditionally
taught our undergraduate courses, and for the
most part we felt that it had a strong positive
impact on the students and the classroom
environment. Compared to a conventional
design course, considerably more time and effort
was required from instructors in creating in-class
and tutorial activities. Care had to be taken in
providing students with exercises that were
sufficiently challenging yet still manageable
within the time available. As a benefit, the
amount of time spent preparing lecture notes was
greatly reduced. Overall, the classes were much
more exciting and engaging for students and
instructors alike.
CONCLUSIONS
We are already confident that we have made a
dramatic improvement to the second year
curriculum and the students appear to feel much
the same way.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
We gratefully acknowledge the support of Jim
Sibley, Sophie Spiridonoff and Billy Lam in the
Centre for Instructional Support. We also thank
the students of Mech 2 for their forbearance
during our growing pains. We are glad that they
have enjoyed this experience and appreciate all
their comments and responses to our
instructional experiments.
REFERENCES
Team-Based Learning: A Transformative Use of
Small Groups in College Teaching, edited by
Larry K. Michaelsen, Arletta B. Knight, and L.
Dee Fink. Stylus Publishing, Sterling VA
... Recent studies show that employers are seeking skills such as teamwork, flexibility, and learning orientation from university graduates [6,10]. And because engineering jobs frequently require employees to work on projects in team settings, team skills are especially sought out by engineering employers [5]. The issue lies in the disparity between the soft skills graduates believe they have acquired and the soft skills employers are seeing [10]. ...
... In the past, TBL has chiefly been implemented in health professional fields such as nursing and animal and veterinary sciences and graduate-level courses [11]. In recent years, TBL implementation has slowly shifted to engineering-related fields and in freshman-level classes [5,8,1,4]. Until now, TBL has been correlated with a dramatic decrease in first-semester class drop rate as well as a drastic increase in overall grade improvement [1,4,6,9,11]. Even so, not only has it shown evidence of improving student learning and student retention in specific degree programs, but it also shows potential in developing students' teamwork, communication, and other professional skills [3,4,6,2,11]. ...
Conference Paper
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Today's competitive global market demands that engineers possess "soft skills" in addition to technical skills. Currently, engineers learn leadership, teamwork, and management skills while working "soft skills the hard way". In order to meet the demands of this changing world, engineering programs in different universities are challenged to come up with innovative ways to teach classes so that graduates are prepared to take on the challenges twenty-first-century engineers face. Team-Based Learning (TBL) is an advancing teaching pedagogy that shifts instruction from a traditional lecture-based teaching paradigm to a structured learning sequence. TBL has shown to be effective in student academic success and retention; however, it may also aid in the development of soft skills required for the industry. This study focuses on 165 students who were enrolled in a freshman-level programming course in the Fall 2019. The students were all asked voluntarily to fill a "Soft Skills Survey" in the second week of the semester that consisted of 38 questions evaluating various categories of soft skills. At the end of the semester, the same survey was given and both were used to evaluate the effectiveness of TBL on students' soft skills. The conducted survey is designed to assess five overarching factors within the TBL framework: The first is how group work improves individual motivation; the second is how group work stimulates academic growth; the third is the individual student's creative and critical thinking skills; the fourth is the value of group work for their overall education; the last is confidence in their own academic skills. Traditionally, the effectiveness of TBL has been assessed through grades and numeric measures of performance; however, TBL was designed to both enhance learning as well as team collaboration and critical thinking skills. These two surveys were conducted to assess the "soft skills" outcome gains. Preliminary results for this study showed modest gains in critical thinking and external motivation. The results show that using TBL will organically enhance the students' soft skills.
... MECH 223 (hereafter referred to as Course A) is a second-year mechanical engineering design course with two large team design projects [17]. It focuses on the topics of design process and design tools, but also covers project management, team functioning, effective communication, and so on. ...
... There are 20 teams in the course, with a nominal team size of six students per team (occasionally there are teams of five or seven). Following best practices, teams are formed by instructors [17], [20] with the goal of maximizing heterogeneity [21] across dimensions such as academic ability, personality type, practical skills, and so on [22]. Also following recommended practice in engineering, female students are not placed alone on teams [20]. ...
Article
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This study uses two-stage team quizzes to assess differences in team decision-making based on the factors gender and nationality. Over 200 teams in two different engineering design courses delivered using Team-Based Learning across five years were considered. In the two-stage quizzes, individuals first committed to their own answers, and then the team discussed the same questions and answered as a group. Cases where an individual was incorrect and the team adopted that same incorrect answer were used as a measure of influence of that individual on team decision-making (i.e., “pushing” behaviour by the individual). Similarly, cases where an individual was correct but the team adopted a different (incorrect) answer were used as a measure of lack of influence (i.e., “switching” behaviour by the individual). Overall, no significant gender or nationality differences were found in pushing behaviours. Male students and international students were found to be more likely to engage in switching behaviours. The overall differences in switching were modest (0.3-0.4% difference per question), but this translates to between 5 and 15 more male/international students engaging in switching behaviours in a typical 75- to 150-student course.
... The typical course enrollment is 115-125 students and nine cohorts from 2005W to 2013W were considered. The course is delivered using the Team-Based Learning (TBL) approach [7] (details on the course-specific TBL implementation can be found in [5], [6], and [9]). All students attend a common lecture section (i.e. ...
Article
The influence of team function on designproject outcomes was examined in this study. Teamfunction was considered across six key dimensions,including unity, communication, distribution ofresponsibility, problem solving, conflict management, andteam self-evaluation. Three different methods were usedto quantify team function: a survey in which students selfratedtheir team’s function, a comparison of performanceon quizzes first performed individually and then as a team(as a measure of the degree of communication, problemsolving, and unity), and an analysis of the differentiationin inter-team peer evaluation scores (as a measure ofdistribution of responsibility, conflict management, andunity). Design project outcomes were measured as acomposite of grades from competition prototypes, writtenreports, oral and poster presentations, and several otherdeliverables. These scores were normalized to removeyear-to-year variability. Statistically significantrelationships between each measure of team function anddesign project outcomes were observed.For each dimension of team function, teams with highaverage self-rating on the survey also had 4% to 6%higher normalized design project scores compared tothose with low self-ratings. On the quizzes, teams thatwere more likely to answer a question incorrectly whenone or more members knew the correct answer(suggesting a lack of communication, unequal input toproblem solving, or reduced team unity) also receivedlower normalized design project scores by as much as4%. The full relationship between this metric and projectoutcome was more complicated though, as the teams leastlikely to answer incorrectly when some members had thecorrect answer performed below average on the projects.Lastly, a trend of decreasing composite project score wascorrelated with increasing inter-team differences in peerevaluation scores (suggesting unequal distribution ofresponsibility, increased conflict, or reduced team unity).Interestingly, teams that did not differentiate peerevaluation scores at all (i.e. each team member receivedthe same peer evaluation score ‘no matter what’) hadproject scores 7% lower on average than teams with asmall non-zero differentiation in peer evaluation scores.Taken together, the results of this study support thehypothesis that team function plays an important role inproject outcomes, contributing better than half a lettergrade difference.
... The course is delivered using the Team-Based Learning (TBL) approach [5] (details on the coursespecific TBL implementation can be found in [6], [7], and [8]). All students attend a common lecture section (i.e. ...
Article
This study examines factors influencing studentconflict management styles in a team-based second yearmechanical engineering design course. Maddux describedconflict management along the dimensions ofassertiveness (seeking to meet one’s own needs) andcooperativeness (seeking to meet the other party’s needs).The key research questions in this study were how conflictmanagement styles changed as a result of participation inan intense team-based course and whether gender orpersonality type influenced students’ conflict managementstyles. Students completed a pre-course team formationsurvey that included prompts on how they would deal withdifferent scenarios representing common team conflicts;students responded to the same prompts again in aproject exit survey. Students’ responses in these surveyswere used to code their preferred approach for dealingwith conflicts. Two independent reviewers worked fromrandomized, anonymous survey data and coded students’responses along the two dimensions of Maddux’ model.The results indicate conflict management style iscontext dependent (the distribution of responses changedfor the different survey prompts). The most commonlyused conflict management style was Compromising, inwhich parties find a middle ground but neither fullyachieves their goals. A statistically significant reductionin assertiveness was found between pre- and post-surveys.Statistically significant differences in assertiveness werealso noted with a number of Myers-Briggs personalitytype pairs in the pre-survey. The fact that similardifferences were not observed in the post-survey suggeststhat the project experience has a normalizing effect onconflict management style. Meaningful statisticallysignificant differences in conflict management style basedon gender were not observed.
... The course is delivered using the Team-Based Learning (TBL) approach [8] (details on the course-specific TBL implementation can be found in [5], [6], and [10]). All students attend a common lecture section (i.e. ...
Article
The influence of personality type on various factors relating to engineering education is examined. Personality type was described according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Data from a total of sevencohorts (2007 to 2013) in a second year mechanical engineering design course have been analyzed. Decision making on team tests was examined in terms of the MBTI Introversion / Extraversion domain and peer evaluation scores received were examined across all four MBTI domains. Measured differences between students with a preference for Introversion and those with a preference for Extraversion on the level of influence on team decision making was found. A small but statistically significant correlation has also been noted between peer evaluation scores received and a student’s preference onthe MBTI Judging / Perceiving domain. This is believed to relate to possible perceptions (or misperceptions) that in delaying action or decision making a person with a preference for Perceiving is lazy or disengaged. Differences in peer evaluation scores were not observed for the other three MBTI domains. The results suggest that even with student awareness (through readings) and interventions (through workshops) possible effects of the difference in personality type persist in engineering student teams. The lack of relationship between peer evaluation scores and the remaining three MBTI domains is a favourable outcome in terms of the objectivity of the peer evaluation tools.
... The 2015 cohort, consisting of 121 students, was considered in this study. The course is delivered using the Team-Based Learning (TBL) approach [22], [23], with course-specific details regarding this TBL implementation extensively documented [24], [25], [26]. All students attend a common lecture section (i.e. ...
Article
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Factors affecting student self-perception in thecontext of engineering design team work are examined inthis paper. Specifically, how students of different genderand personality type rank their own contributions to theirteam relative to how their teammates rank theircontributions is considered. Gender- and personalitybaseddifferences in self-serving bias – an individual’stendency to attribute positive outcomes to their ownactions and negative outcomes to external factors – areknown to exist.This two-part study examines these factors in thecontext of self-evaluation and peer evaluation scoresreceived in a second year mechanical engineering designproject course. Four evaluation events were conducted inJanuary, 2015 (Part 1), and followed by an in-classintervention (presentation) and three more evaluationevents in April, 2015 (Part 2). In Part 1, self-servingbiases were measured by examining the differencebetween self-evaluation scores and average peerevaluation scores received from teammates. Separate ttestsand mixed-linear model statistical analysis wereused to compare the average self-peer bias in evaluationscores versus gender and each of the four MBTI domainscales.Data showed a statistically significant increase in selfservingbias as the course progressed. Differences werealso noted for gender (males initially had a higher selfservingbias than females, but this difference disappearedin time), and MBTI domains of Introversion/Extraversionand Thinking/Feeling (students with a preference forExtraversion and Thinking had higher self-serving bias).The differences for gender and personality type werestatistically significant with t-tests but not with mixedlinearmodels, suggesting the observed effects were drivenby a small number of individuals with large self-servingbias. Following the intervention – consisting of a shortin-class presentation describing the observed effects fromPart 1 – reduced self-serving bias was observed in Part 2,but it is unclear if the change was due to the interventionor due to other factors.
... The typical course enrollment is 115-125 students split into 20 teams of 5 to 7. The course is delivered using the Team-Based Learning (TBL) approach [1], [9]. Course-specific details regarding this TBL implementation are extensively documented [10], [11], [12]. This is a seven credit course split into two parts (four weeks in January and three weeks in April). ...
Article
Two-stage exams consist of a traditionalpencil-and-paper examination written in class byindividual students, followed immediately by a secondsitting in which the students retake the same exam inteams (i.e. a collaborative test). The team test providesan immediate opportunity for students to discuss, debate,teach, and receive feedback on the subject matter. Itdraws on principles of goal-directed practice, timelytargeted feedback, and collaborative learning.The practice of two-stage testing is a defining featureof the Team-Based Learning approach, and is used forintroductory reading quizzes that begin each coursemodule. These have been part of the instructionalapproach in Mechanical Engineering at the University ofBritish Columbia for over a decade. In 2014, we haveextended two-stage testing to include midterm and finalexaminations. To accommodate the team portion, examswere shortened by approximately one third and questionswere reformatted to be easier to complete in teams.Students report a strong preference this approach(72% in favour) and report a resulting improvement intheir understanding of the course material (75%). Examperformance gains have also been observed. In almost allcases, teams outperform their strongest member, and it isnot uncommon that the weakest team outperforms thestrongest individual in the class. As an added benefit, therevised question structure that makes it easier for studentsto collaborate on exam writing has also simplified andexpedited the marking process.
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Esta innovación pedagógica toma una metodología de aprendizaje basado en proyectos, cuyo objetivo es facilitar a los estudiantes de ingeniería conexiones significativas entre los conceptos físicos de hidrostática e hidrodinámica dados en clases y los fenómenos presentes en su vida cotidiana mediante la producción y análisis de videos caseros propios
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Los docentes darán cuenta de un proyecto de aula que nace impulsado por la patente necesidad de observar en sus estudiantes mejores competencias comunicativas orales y escritas cuando toman la asignatura Proyecto Final en el área de ingeniería. Por tal motivo, los responsables de la materia en ingenierías Eléctrica, Electrónica y Sistemas, apoyados por una docente del Departamento de Lenguas, decidieron diseñar un proyecto que arrojara resultados específicos sobre estas falencias mediante una intervención: la primera en profesores de la asignatura y luego, a partir del siguiente semestre, en estudiantes. La investigación de aula se llevó a cabo como un estudio cuantitativo, de alcance explicativo, con diseño cuasiexperimental; en donde una cohorte inicialmente fue tomada como grupo de referencia y la otra como grupo experimental. Para evaluar la experiencia se diseñó una rúbrica (validada por expertos) y asimismo la encuesta de opinión (también validada) que fue aplicada a los estudiantes. Los resultados arrojaron que el 98 % de los estudiantes reconoce que las competencias comunicativas son necesarias en su vida académica y profesional y que deberían ser incorporadas transversalmente en sus carreras. También se observó una notable mejoría en el desempeño de la segunda cohorte después de la intervención, y ambos efectos coinciden con la literatura revisada.
Conference Paper
The flipped classroom model is gaining increasing attention in higher education, including engineering education. There are various types of models and contexts in which they are applied. Generalized research on the effectiveness of the flipped classroom is emerging, and results have been mixed. One such model is team-based learning (TBL) as originally developed by Larry Michaelsen in the late 1970s. TBL is a structured way to implement a flipped classroom approach, and has been shown to be successful in achieving deeper learning among the students. In this paper, we discuss our experience using the TBL methodology in a graduate computer engineering course on system level design of embedded systems. Specifically, we describe the course design, instructor experience adapting TBL for use in the course, including implementing an asynchronous online TBL process, and instructor reflections and student feedback on what worked well and what did not. We analyze the course content using the Florida Taxonomy of Cognitive Behavior, and assess the effectiveness of our implementation in achieving deeper learning. Additionally, we report on student perception of the new course structure and their experience using TBL.
A Transformative Use of Small Groups in College Teaching
  • Team-Based Learning
Team-Based Learning: A Transformative Use of Small Groups in College Teaching, edited by Larry K. Michaelsen, Arletta B. Knight, and L.