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Literature review: Effective teamwork and team diversity in engineering education


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Given the prevalent use of heterogeneous teams in education and the workplace, the engineering community has been calling on educators to embed team diversity into the team-based activities as a simulation of the real work environment. However, in engineering classrooms, like many others, students often dislike working in diverse groups, instead choosing to work with those of the same background as themselves. Such a preference limits the students’ capacity to communicate or work cooperatively with those from diverse backgrounds (Wilson-Medhurst, 2016) and arises from a lack of understanding of the skills, practices and social attitudes engineering graduates require and the nature of the work they do (Trevelyan, 2009). Adopting a teamwork culture by students of different cognitive abilities and demographics with high social integration will lead eventually to more innovative solutions to engineering problems, as well as developing the necessary expertise to become professional engineers (Murzi et al., 2020). In engineering fields, research proves that diverse teams can generate more innovative solutions and products to suit a wide range of users. Guillaume et al. (2017) stressed the importance of diversity to facilitate the elaboration of task-relevant information which leads to innovation and better decision‐making. Diverse teams are more likely to constantly re-examine facts, remain objective and avoid restricted thinking (Rock & Grant, 2016).


In this review, we aim to explain the impact of team diversity on team performance using two metrics: team qualitative and quantitative outcomes; and team social integration.
We examine the impact of team diversity on team performance by reviewing the literature on diversity of teams. Addressing diversity in the curriculum can be done through active learning approaches and teamwork activities (Curşeu & Pluut, 2013). These approaches provide an environment that is more aligned to the professional environment than ‘traditional’ teaching methods and provide a context to develop the social skills that empower students in different disciplines but specifically effective teamwork (Hsiung, 2012). Structured, team-based activities can offer multiple learning opportunities and identify challenging cultural diversity and people-based issues that students are likely to come across during their study (Sleeter, 2001).
The literature reviewed in this paper found that team diversity was more likely to positively impact on the first performance metric (quality and quantity of outcomes), but the results on the second metric were mixed (social integration).

Item Type: Paper presented at a conference, workshop or other event, and published in the proceedings
Uncontrolled Keywords: Teamwork, diversity, team performance
Subjects: T Technology > TJ Mechanical engineering and machinery
Divisions: Schools > Centre for Engineering and Industrial Design
Depositing User: Mohammad Al-Rawi
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2020 22:23
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 09:06

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