Expert System for Team Facilitation Using Observational Learning

Ray Luechtefeld, Missouri University of Science and Technology
R. K. Singh
Steve Eugene Watkins, Missouri University of Science and Technology

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While ABET criteria require that engineering graduates be able to "function on multidisciplinary teams" and "communicate effectively", the need for effective team skills goes far deeper. One solution is the use of a computationally intelligent "virtual facilitator" that contains a subset of the expert knowledge of a skilled facilitator. The "virtual facilitator" models behaviors of an expert facilitator to engineering student teams as they are working together. Albert Bandura's theory of observational learning suggests that skills can be developed through observation of expert "others" engaged in practice. Preliminary research indicates that students can increase beneficial team behaviors (such as inquiry) through observation and imitation of an expert system. This paper is an extension of a 2005 FIE Work-in- Progress presentation that documented an expert facilitator system. In this study the system is used as part of an hour-long team exercise for engineering students. This study looks at student interactions during the exercise. Measures include analysis of team conversations for instances of imitation of the expert system, as well as a comparison of differences in team performance. The potential for an easily disseminated method to help engineering students learn effective team skills is discussed.