Students perspectives on challenges within multi-diverse design teams

Bas Flipsen, S.M. Persaud, Reka Magyari

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

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In the IPD Master’s in Industrial Design Engineering (TU Delft) we see a growing diversity of students. We see the international student population growing, but also see significant differences in prior education, socio-emotional aspects, and competences. Within the Advanced Embodiment Design (AED) course, students work in teams on a client-based design project for a full semester. In 2018-2019, 22 student-teams started out their endeavour, coached by eight coaches. On a weekly basis the coaches tracked the teams' performances by means of six key performance indicators. The weekly logs are aggregated, converted, and visualized in a performance dashboard which was used to lead the discussion on troublesome teams and solutions to get them back-on-track. In this cohort four fields were found: (i) cultural differences; (ii) differences in design approaches; (iii) emotional differences; and (iv) differences in student competences. These typical problems were the result of our own coaches' perspective, and not so much from a student's perspective. To really get a grip on team dynamics and issues involved, we wanted to know what students come across when functioning in a multi-diverse team. In this paper we present our exploration from students' perspective by evaluating the end-of-course reflections. The goal of this research is to learn about the most occurring issues within multi-diverse teams and come to applicable solutions to help teams during the project. We started out with a word cloud to find the most common terms and use those as labels for clustering. 308 unique students’ quotations were labelled and clustered into three main clusters based on project management, emotional interaction and interdisciplinary, and 11 subclusters. The clustered data revealed interesting results in terms of (sub)clusters as well as their relationships to each other. Visualizing the associations between the subclusters show for example that lack of clear consensus on leadership causes challenges from various aspects leading to difficulties in role agreements, task concerns and design approaches, as well as managing individual behaviours. Despite initial assumptions, Cultural Differences led to the smallest number of challenges but scored high in terms of relations with other clusters. In this paper we will present our findings on the issues clustered and the prioritization of importance. We will discuss the relationships between the clustered student challenges, and review solutions which can help them out in becoming highly performing teams.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education 2021
EditorsH. Grierson, E. Bohemia, L. Buck
PublisherThe Design Society
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-912254-14-9
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventE&PDE 2021: Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education
: Continuity and Adaptability in Design and Engineering Education
- University of Herning, Denmark
Duration: 9 Sep 202110 Sep 2021


ConferenceE&PDE 2021: Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education
Internet address


  • Multi-diverse
  • Teams
  • lessons learned
  • Reflection
  • Team Dynamics


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