Team Projects in Engineering

The Influence of Team Projects on Engineering Students’ Self-Efficacy and Interest

Project-based learning is becoming widely utilized in engineering curricula and can be beneficial in improving both student learning and the quality of the student’s experience. Projects are an opportunity to provide “mastery experiences” for students to improve their engineering self-efficacy, or the belief in oneself to complete challenging engineering tasks, and thus increase student persistence, retention and motivation. However, group project experiences are not always advantageous to students. Teamwork can be frustrating and ineffective, may not further the student’s understanding, and can even negatively impact the student’s university experience.

There has been extensive research done on how to best form student teams; however, we believe more research is warranted to investigate teamwork after the groups have been formed: how does the team project experience affect each individual student?  A potential cause for ineffective or negative group experiences is that students working on team projects undertake different tasks and fill different roles, some of which may not encourage an improvement in engineering skills or an increase in self-efficacy.  Therefore, this effort will investigate the relationship between the students’ perceptions of their team experience and post-project engineering self-efficacy and interest in engineering. Through this project, the team hopes to gain more insight into students’ team projects experiences and develop an understanding of how those experiences may affect the roles that students take on in these projects and the students’ subsequent interest in and motivation to persist in engineering. As a result of the study, recommendations will be developed for instructors to scaffold team project experiences for the students at the University of Michigan to ensure that all students are able to complete technically-challenging tasks and fill different roles, in order to improve students’ interest in engineering and thus retention and motivation in the College of Engineering as a whole.

Project Team:

Cynthia Finelli, Director, Center for Research and Learning in Engineering, College of Engineering

Laura Hirshfield, Research Fellow, Center for Research and Learning in Engineering, College of Engineering