Training Students to Establish and Maintain Positive Group Dynamics in Design and Design-Based Classes

Katie Ansell, Rebecca M. Reck, Holly Golecki, Christopher Schmitz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Teaming of students in design-based engineering courses improves outcomes for projects and replicates the working environment of engineers. Yet the group-level and individual benefits of working in groups depend on healthy group function. In lab and design-based courses, where assignments are typically more open-ended and have high levels of interdependency, unhealthy group dynamics lead to issues such as inequitable division of labor and an undervaluing of certain students' thoughts and ideas. Context-based strategies like pre-assigned groups, task design, or peer grading mitigate these issues, but do not necessarily improve students' abilities to work together. We propose a learner-centered approach to group work in classes, in which instructors use context strategies while training students to establish, maintain, and repair group dynamics across the duration of a semester of instruction. Facilitated by a community of practice of laboratory and design instructors, common assignments to establish and support healthy group dynamics were administered in four design-focused courses at a large public university. Interventions included a beginning of semester team contract activity, a mid-semester reflection activity, and an end of semester self- and peer evaluation. This Work-in-Progress presents this Innovative Practice in its development and early assessment stages. Guiding principles and implementation across multiple course contexts are described, with suggestions as to how instructors may respond to information from these interventions. The aim of this work is for instructors to get a sense of how such a longitudinal, student-centered approach to team dynamics may be applied in their own teaching practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2023 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2023 - Proceedings
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9798350336429
StatePublished - 2023
Event53rd IEEE ASEE Frontiers in Education International Conference, FIE 2023 - College Station, United States
Duration: Oct 18 2023Oct 21 2023

Publication series

NameProceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE
ISSN (Print)1539-4565


Conference53rd IEEE ASEE Frontiers in Education International Conference, FIE 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityCollege Station


  • Design
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Laboratory
  • Team dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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