An empirical investigation of predictors of perceived innovation within engineering student design teams
Asio, Sarah M.
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Stiff competition and dynamic progression of the global world economy are constantly requiring the generation of innovative solutions and products. Engineers are at the center of every innovative venture. Engineering education institutions are responsible for preparing qualified and talented workers that are able to develop cutting edge technologies, products and services. The present-day educational setting has been likened to a mass production assembly line through which students are hurriedly passed for a few years. New graduates are launched into real life situations where they cannot simply rely on coursework, but have to exhibit an ability to generate new ideas and provide novel solutions to diverse problems. However, knowledge acquired through coursework is likely not sufficient to develop innovative abilities among graduates. This study investigates perceptions of 709 engineering students engaged in senior design capstone projects and other hands-on design-related coursework. The objectives of the study are to identify the predictors of Team Innovation and statistically test their underlying relationships in order to develop operational guidelines and recommendations for engineering education researchers and practitioners. A framework for team-level innovation was developed based on the input, process, output systems model. Empirical data was collected from engineering student teams across nine engineering disciplines using survey instruments. Statistical analyses were conducted using techniques such as confirmatory factor analysis, scale reliability analysis, scale aggregation analysis, analysis of variance, multivariate analysis of variance, correlation analysis, and hierarchical linear modeling. Findings from the study show that Team Innovation is statistically and significantly related to Rewards, Team Size, Support for Innovation, and Leadership for the Team Inputs category, and Team Learning, Task Orientation, Cohesion, Conflict, Communication, Effort, and Participative Safety for the Team Process category. A generalizable linear model for measuring Team Innovation is developed and guidelines are suggested for addressing areas in which engineering graduates are still lacking and reinforcing areas of strength. This research contributes to the general body of knowledge on Innovation and teamwork within the engineering education context