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Revising Roles: Enhancing an Engineering Capstone Course to Improve Outcomes for Women


Women leave the engineering profession at a high rate. This attrition is observed both in the university setting and in the workforce. Female students cite negative experiences with peers as a contributor to their dissatisfaction with engineering. Many of these negative experiences occur in team projects that are ubiquitous in engineering programs. In the absence of intentional instruction on teamwork and effective collaboration methods, students—especially women— struggle and have negative experiences that stymie the self-efficacy and confidence-building that should occur during the senior year. The objective of this paper is to highlight key issues with engineering capstone projects and to identify best practices that can result in better outcomes for women. Four recommendations evolved from this effort: 1.) Education on team function and bias in team dynamics is helpful. 2.) Teamwork skills and strategies for collaboration and conflict resolution need to be taught. 3.) Mentoring and engaging with students is an important aspect of the process and can be enhanced to better serve women. 4.) Reflection and self- assessment exercises can be integrated to build self-efficacy and confidence in students.

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