Design Argumentation on Multidisciplinary Teams: An Analysis of Engineering Design Team Communication Effectiveness

Robert E. Curtis, Catherine G.P. Berdanier

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Modern engineering challenges are complex and require multidisciplinary teams of designers to successfully solve these problems and communicate their design solutions to stakeholders. While past literature has documented how engineering students use rhetorical features such as linguistic cues and gestures as they prototype and design, few scholars have investigated how students use disciplinary language while working in teams, and in particular multidisciplinary design teams. As many capstone engineering experiences seek to embed authentic multidisciplinary experiences into their settings, instructors may wonder whether if and how interdisciplinarity affects the outcomes of the engineering projects or the quality of the final design pitch. In this study, design pitches were analyzed from n = 45 senior-level multidisciplinary engineering design teams at a large research-intensive university using a framework adapted from prior literature to evaluate the quality of disciplinary discourse. Qualitative content analysis methods were used to calculate a design argumentation score (i.e., a measure of how effective the team was in advocating for their design) for each group comprising the mean disciplinary discourse score of the group over the occurrences of disciplinary communication. This score (captured by a quantitative measure of the diversity of engineering disciplines represented in the group) was examined in relationship to the disciplinary diversity of each team. Results show that for the teams involved in this study, disciplinary diversity of design teams did not have a statistically significant effect on design argumentation quality, indicating this factor does not need to be considered in future research. This paper also presents a novel framework to assess the quality of argumentation in design pitches and could be useful for future research or practice applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 25 2023
Event2023 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - The Harbor of Engineering: Education for 130 Years, ASEE 2023 - Baltimore, United States
Duration: Jun 25 2023Jun 28 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering

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