E3 Grants progress report: Tandem project update

An E3 grant was awarded to a College of Engineering research team to explore ways bias could be reduced when using Tandem, leading to improved team support in College of Engineering courses. The team submitted a proposal as part of the Enhancing Engineering Education (E3) Grants Program in 2023, and has provided an update for each component of their proposed project which is summarized below.

Tandem is a team-support tool proposed by lecturers in the College of Engineering and co-developed with UM’s Center for Academic Innovation (CAI). It was designed intentionally as a tool to support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), aiming to raise student and instructor awareness of patterns of marginalization and to equip students and instructors with mechanisms for disrupting such patterns.

The research team includes Robin Fowler – Technical Communication – Engineering Education Research, Trevion Henderson – Tufts University, Caroline Carter – Center for Academic Innovation, Caitlin Hayward – Center for Academic Innovation, Becky Matz – Center for Academic Innovation, and Mark Mills – Center for Academic Innovation, among other contributors.

Project 1: Improve Tandem to better detect and disrupt anti-Black racism on teams.

This project will conduct and analyze focus groups with Black students to understand anti-Black racism on student teams and racialized teamwork experiences.

Focus groups were formed to study the experiences of Black students on a team. The project team realized there was a need for more training and planning, especially how to effectively mentor students and consider project continuity when students leave the program. This portion of the project is currently paused until such resources have been acquired. However, there is also a parallel project, funded by CAI, where undergraduate students made suggestions that the CAI team is currently implementing that could potentially improve this area of concern.

Project 2: Conduct quantitative analyses to better understand bias in student ratings using existing data. This project will investigate existing data to better understand how bias shows up in student ratings of peers and self, with the goal of helping us understand how demographic categories are related to scores given and received.

Data analyses were conducted over the summer, by Xiaping Li, and focused on whether alterations to the question format could reduce bias. Initial results suggest a slight decrease in bias after changes were made to the format of the questions. Bias, in this study, is defined as the degree to which same gender, race, and/or domestic student status predicts ratings received by students. Xiaping submitted an abstract of her findings, which was accepted at ASEE, and she and the research team are currently developing a full paper.

Project 3: Summarize teamwork research from Tandem with the goal of increasing faculty adoption. This project will create a faculty-focused landing page to explain Tandem,highlighting it as a research-based equity tool (not just a peer assessment tool to replace CATME).

Once data has been analyzed and published, the team would like to present a research summary page similar to the one available for GradeCraft, a sister educational technology tool (gradecraft.com/about). 

The research team will continue expanding on their current findings and explore new avenues of research as they arise.

Visit the E3 Grants website to learn more about the program, grant opportunities currently available and how to submit a proposal.