Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Engineering and Science Education

Committee Member

Dr. Julie Martin, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Karen High

Committee Member

Dr. Leidy Klotz

Committee Member

Dr. Todd Schweisinger

Committee Member

Dr. Barbara Speziale


Recent graduates entering the professional field must draw on their content knowledge as well as their collaboration skills to address professional projects. These projects increasingly call for diverse skill sets from multiple disciplines and personal backgrounds and interests thereby requiring professionals to engage with cross-disciplinary differences. In order for undergraduate students to be prepared for teamwork as professionals, they need to experience and practice collaboration as students. However, undergraduate education typically incorporates mono-disciplinary student experiences that do not scaffold an understanding of or appreciation for differences in viewpoints and training of individuals in technical and non-technical fields. Incorporating effective collaboration experiences into the curriculum requires a deeper understanding of how students approach teamwork and develop as effective team members during a project. My research uncovers the experiences of students during a cross-disciplinary project through a real-time data collection approach. I became a participant observer on a single cross-disciplinary student team and observed team meetings, interviewed team members, and collected written documents from students to elicit thick, rich descriptions of their development as team members during the project. I operationalize an existing framework for cross-disciplinary professional practice as potential stages of development students might experience during a project. Through the lens of this existing model, I identify the student trajectories through these development stages as well as the events and social structures that sometimes impede student development. This dissertation uses a multi-manuscript format to discuss my contribution to the literature in four unique ways. • I expose the “messiness” of qualitative research by sharing an audit trail of my research experience. • I expand the current understanding of student cross-disciplinary teamwork by presenting four student cases showing a range of salient student roles and how those roles developed during the project. • I provide a detailed account of how a sub-team of three engineering students navigated their roles and engaged with cross-disciplinary difference during a five-day intensive project. • I also examine social norms and power structures in higher education to uncover how they influence student and faculty actions during a project and their subsequent impact on student development. Together, these four manuscripts expand the current understanding of student cross-disciplinary collaboration and hold implications for researchers, practitioners, policy makers, and even students.



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