Examining Goal Congruence on Engineering Design and Innovation Student Teams

Beckman S, Jian A, Sabharwal A, and Goucher-Lambert K. 2021. Proceedings of the ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences (2021).


Goal congruence, defined as agreement by all members of a team on a common set of objectives, has been positively associated with team cohesion, team performance and team outcomes, including grades earned. Yet there is little in-depth study at scale and across types of engineering design and innovation classes in higher education that examines the goals students set for their work together. This research explores goal congruence in 857 teams involving 1470 students across 18 classes over four years. To examine goal congruence, we use student assessments of their level of agreement on their goals as well as evaluations of their written goal statements. Machine learning techniques are used to automatically identify goal types and congruence between goals. We find that goal congruence on student teams is relatively low, even when they assess it as high, partly due to variety in the types of goals they identify. We categorize the goals students articulate for their teams into grade-, completion-, teaming-, learning-, problem-, output- and outcome-oriented goals and report variance in the types of goals identified in different pedagogical settings. Our findings have implications for how faculty design their classes, link learning outcomes to team projects and facilitate goal setting on student teams.