STUDENTS’ VIEWS ABOUT REASONS FOR CHANGES IN TEAM ROLE BEHAVIORS
Junior year engineering students at the American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates are required to complete a professional communication course prior to internship and the capstone senior design course. In the course concerned ENG 207 the students work in multidisciplinary teams, drawn from different majors, make a succinct collaborative oral presentation, present a poster presentation and produce a written report on their multidisciplinary projects. Other important aspects of the revised course facilitate the multidisciplinary team work. Students are required to conduct effective meetings, to plan and document decisions, to set planning goals and meet deadlines, to manage themselves and their peers, to show leadership and to evaluate their peers. There is emphasis on responsibility at personal, inter-personal and community levels developing the sense of a community of professional practice.
Students engage in team-building informed by the administration of the Belbin GET SET Self Perception Inventory (SPI), (Belbin, 2012) used to provide both individual and team profile preferences of the nine roles deemed by Belbin as essential for well-functioning teams. The vast majority of students enter ENG207 having experience of group work but little notion of teamwork and how it differs from working in a group. Work with the Belbin team-role behaviors addresses this deficiency to a certain extent but the real growth in understanding arises from engagement with the engineering multi-disciplinary projects (EMDP). Previously published research (El-Sakran, Prescott, & Mesanovic 2013) demonstrated shifts in students’ individual perceptions in social, cognitive and achievement domains as a result of semester long engagement with the various tasks associated with the EMDP.
This paper reports on the perceptions of two sections of junior year engineering students who completed the ENG207 course during the short Summer Semester, 2014. The students took the Belbin GET SET Self Perception Inventory at the start of the semester and then again at the close. They were asked to reflect on any shifts in team role behavior preference between the first and second profiles. They were further asked to identify reasons which they believed caused change in the context of specific tasks and activities they completed in their engineering multi-disciplinary projects. These qualitative results will be discussed and compared to the quantitative generated findings from the 2013 study.