Predicting and disrupting inequitable patterns in engineering student teamwork: To-date results

Robin Fowler
University of Michigan

In a poster describing to-date work on our NSF IUSE project, we present evidence collected on a tool for identifying and disrupting marginalization in student teamwork. We believe our work fits squarely within the category of “design and study of innovative tools… for undergraduate STEM education” while also addressing “the role of technology in equity and accessibility” and “evidence-based strategies for improving STEM teaching and/or DEI.”Need: Learning how to work effectively in a team is clearly an important goal for preparing undergraduate engineering students, but supporting inclusive teamwork remains challenging. Marginalization on teams has been linked to aspects of students’ social identity, such as identifying as a woman or person of color, and takes a variety of forms, including ideas going unheard or being pushed into more menial tasks. Particularly in introductory courses and at large colleges and universities, engineering instructors face the additional hurdle of having many students and student teams. With these compounding factors, it is difficult for instructors, and even students themselves, to be aware in real-time when inequitable behaviors are occurring on their teams, and to know how to address them. The consequences of inequitable teams are serious, leading to inequities in mastery experiences and ultimately contributing to students leaving engineering degree programs.Guiding question: The objective of this project is to study the effectiveness of Tandem in assessing and supporting inclusive and equitable teamwork in engineering. Tandem is a digital pedagogical tool developed at the University of Michigan, which delivers tailored lessons to students about effective teamwork and provides feedback to students and instructors about team performance, through an equity and inclusion lens.Outcomes: The expected more general outcomes from this work include 1) generalizable knowledge about an approach to measuring teamwork competency that emphasizes inclusion and equity and fosters instructor and student awareness of inequitable team behavior, 2) improvements to survey and lesson features within Tandem that will support the ability of teams to behave inclusively, and 3) improved pedagogical practice in this engineering course context. For this poster, results from our initial project activities, including explorations of project confidence and equity of voice, will be presented.Broader impacts: The positive impacts of this project will be further propagated through the use of Tandem in other team-based courses at the University of Michigan as well as at other institutions. This project has transformative potential in the tailored support that Tandem can provide to instructors and students in recognizing and addressing inequitable behavior in teams and promoting conditions in which all can be successful.


Becky Matz, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Andrew Moffat, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.