One of the greatest challenges with a year-long senior design project is team formation. A number of different techniques for this have been described in the literature (see Barkley et al, 2014 for review), including random assignment, allowing the students to self-select, and having the instructor assign teams. Assigning teams in large courses (e.g., 50 projects and 160 students) is logistically challenging (Agarwal et al, 2017) and students are sometimes unhappy with their assigned team and/or project. Computerized algorithms (www.catme.org) have been developed to maximize instructor-defined parameters, including diversity, GPA, times available, and different skill sets, (Layton, et al, 2010) but students still lack agency in their final team assignments. In the past, we had students submit forms stating project interests, skills, time availability, and team preferences, then faculty members formed teams to maximize project interest while considering other factors. Believing that choice is the primary factor in student motivation (Dutson et al, 1997), and that this motivation will lead to the highest team performance, last year we utilized the Mingling Method described by Aller et al (2008). For these student-formed teams, students ranked projects and listed skills before coming to lab. They then placed nametags on their 1st (red) & 2nd (blue) choice projects on posters around a room, and spoke with others on each project. Students then moved nametags as needed to form teams with the required skills and team size, and occasionally faculty intervened to adjust team sizes.
Our research questions were: (a) What is the best way to consider student’s interests when forming teams, while also integrating research-based team-forming strategies? and (b) How does the team-forming approach affect student experiences, student learning, and project outcomes? By comparing two different approaches to forming teams in our large year-long senior project course, we hope to gather data to guide future team-forming strategies. Here, we present data about team diversity, team dynamics, and student satisfaction.
• Team Diversity. Hypothesis: Allowing students to form their own teams might result in more homogeneous teams. This did not occur. While the ethnic diversity was lower with self-teaming, the gender diversity increased. However, both trends mirrored the change in class demographics.
• Team Dynamics. Hypothesis: Allowing students to form their own teams might reduce team friction. This did not occur. Students who self-teamed are slightly more critical of their teammates than those who were formed by faculty.
• Student Satisfaction. Hypothesis: Allowing students to form their own teams might improve their project and team satisfaction. This was only observed in initial project satisfaction, and that improvement disappeared by the end of the first quarter. Team satisfaction was unaffected by the teaming process.
The results so far are inconclusive: The differences between the two approaches are small. Given that the process for self-forming was new this year and the faculty-formed process has had many years of refinement, it is possible the observed differences are merely part of the learning curve. The results so far do not include team performance (project success) and the effect of the teaming process on the students’ emotional state. These will be included in future work.
Agrawal, V. and Jariwala, A. "Web-based Tools For Supporting Student-driven Capstone Design Team Formation." ASEE (2017).
Aller, B. e tal. "Capstone project team formation: Mingling increases performance and motivation." Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education 6.2 (2008): 503-507.
Barkley, E., et al. Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. John Wiley & Sons, 2014.
Dutson, A., et al. "A review of literature on teaching engineering design through project‐oriented capstone courses." Journal of Engineering Education 86.1 (1997): 17-28.
Layton, R., et al. "Design and Validation of a Web-Based System for Assigning Members to Teams Using Instructor-Specified Criteria." Advances in Engineering Education (2010).
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