Assigning teams in large courses is logistically challenging and students are sometimes unhappy with their assigned team. This is exacerbated when the project work extends over multiple terms and teams have unique projects. Giving students some agency in team and project selection is one way to improve their project experience. This paper examines two key questions: (a) What is the best way to incorporate student interests into the team-forming process? (b) What impact does the team-forming process have on the student experience throughout the project?

We consider two different approaches to giving students agency in the team formation / project selection process that have been implemented in our capstone course. One approach has faculty forming teams outside of class based on student surveys of project interests, skills, time availability, and team preferences. The alternative method enables students to form their own teams in a dynamic faculty-guided setting: Students place nametags on their top project posters, speak with other interested students, and move their nametags as needed until each project had teams with the appropriate size and skillset.

Teams formed using these two approaches have completed a full year-long senior design project experience. Throughout these experiences, we collected data to help answer our two key questions. We used student surveys about the experience and the class, peer feedback on team dynamics, focus group discussions, and faculty observations. The results are inconclusive: The differences between the two approaches are small, indicating that either approach could be used to enable student agency in the team-forming process.


Mechanical Engineering

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URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/meng_fac/113