Campus Units

Electrical and Computer Engineering

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Conference Proceeding

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Today's competitive global market demands that engineers possess "soft skills" in addition to technical skills. Currently, engineers learn leadership, teamwork, and management skills while working "soft skills the hard way". In order to meet the demands of this changing world, engineering programs in different universities are challenged to come up with innovative ways to teach classes so that graduates are prepared to take on the challenges twenty-first-century engineers face. Team-Based Learning (TBL) is an advancing teaching pedagogy that shifts instruction from a traditional lecture-based teaching paradigm to a structured learning sequence. TBL has shown to be effective in student academic success and retention; however, it may also aid in the development of soft skills required for the industry. This study focuses on 165 students who were enrolled in a freshman-level programming course in the Fall 2019. The students were all asked voluntarily to fill a "Soft Skills Survey" in the second week of the semester that consisted of 38 questions evaluating various categories of soft skills. At the end of the semester, the same survey was given and both were used to evaluate the effectiveness of TBL on students' soft skills. The conducted survey is designed to assess five overarching factors within the TBL framework: The first is how group work improves individual motivation; the second is how group work stimulates academic growth; the third is the individual student's creative and critical thinking skills; the fourth is the value of group work for their overall education; the last is confidence in their own academic skills. Traditionally, the effectiveness of TBL has been assessed through grades and numeric measures of performance; however, TBL was designed to both enhance learning as well as team collaboration and critical thinking skills. These two surveys were conducted to assess the "soft skills" outcome gains. Preliminary results for this study showed modest gains in critical thinking and external motivation. The results show that using TBL will organically enhance the students' soft skills.


This is a manuscript of the proceeding Lai, Joyce C., Connor L. Kesterson, and Mohamed Y. Selim. "Planting a Soft Skills Seed In a First-Year Introductory Programming Class Using Team-Based Learning." (2020). Posted with permission.

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