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A Study of Individual Learning in Software Engineering Team Projects

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Pedagogical Approaches for Software Engineering

Tagged Division

Software Engineering Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.106.1 - 25.106.11



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Paper Authors


Colin J. Neill Pennsylvania State University

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Colin J. Neill is Associate Professor of software and systems engineering at Penn State University’s School of Graduate Professional Studies, where he is the Director Engineering Programs.
Neill has developed and taught more than a dozen courses in support of the graduate programs in software engineering, systems engineering, engineering management, and information science in topics including software systems design, system architecture, project management, and systems thinking. He has published more than 70 articles in refereed journals and conference proceedings, including Systems Engineering, IEEE Computer, Journal or Systems and Software, Software Process: Improvement and Practice, and IEEE Software. He is the author of Antipatterns:Managing Software Organizations and People and Associate Editor-in-Chief of Innovations in Systems and Software Engineering.

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Joanna F. DeFranco Pennsylvania State University, Great Valley

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Joanna DeFranco earned her Ph.D. in computer and information science from New Jersey Institute of Technology, M.S. in computer engineering from Villanova University, and B.S. in electrical engineering from Penn State University Park. She teaches graduate courses including: Problem Solving, Project Management, Software Systems Design, Computer Forensics, Ethics and Values in Science and Technology, Advanced Software Engineering Studio and Information Technology seminar. Previous to entering academia, DeFranco held a number of positions in industry and government, including Software Engineer for Motorola in Horsham, Penn., and Electronics Engineer for the Naval Air Development Center in Warminster, Penn. She has published a number of articles in journals and conference proceedings in the area of collaborative problem solving, group cognition, e-learning, and global engineering.

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Raghvinder S. Sangwan Pennsylvania State University, Great Valley

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Raghu Sangwan is an Associate Professor of software engineering in the Engineering Division at Pennsylvania State University’s Great Valley School of Graduate Professional Studies in Malvern, Penn. He joined PSU in 2003 after a more than seven-year career in industry, where he worked mostly with large software-intensive systems in the domains of healthcare, automation, transportation and mining. His teaching and research involves analysis, design, and development of software systems, their architecture, and automatic and semi-automatic approaches to assessment of their design and code quality. He also holds a visiting scientist appointment at the Software Engineering Institute at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Penn. Sangwan received a Ph.D. in computer and information sciences from Temple University, Philadelphia, Penn., in 1997. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE and ACM.

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A Study of Individual Learning in Software Engineering Team ProjectsA large scale experiment to determine if improved team cognition leads to improved individuallearning has been designed. Specifically, the goal of this research is to determine if working onan effective team benefits or impedes a student’s learning of the course content. The literatureappears to focus on team performance, team outcomes, and benefits of teams by combiningindividual resources; but does not focus on the benefits of the individuals on the team, where abenefit could be learning for example.Clearly, an individual’s cognitive activities when on a team are influenced both positively andnegatively by social factors. This could be due to the cognitive diversity of the individual teammembers not being managed or the many social factors that may influence an individual’scognitive processes. Social factors may include social loafing (doing less work because youbelieve others on the team will be doing it) or social facilitation (the mere presence of others caneither enhance or impede individual performance [1]. But again, these factors appear to bebenefiting or impeding the team not the individual.Previously, we studied the effect of the cognitive collaborative model (CCM) on facilitating teamcognition, and the degree of team cognition that is needed to improve team outcomes. Wedetermined the CCM in fact increases team performance via mental model convergence [2] andreduces the effects of cognitive diversity [3]. To further extend this research, in this experiment,we studied how improving team cognition effects individual learning.The CCM is a six-stage cognitive model that takes into consideration the cognitive and socialactivities that occur during collaborative problem solving by facilitating problem formulation,solution planning, and system design tasks during collaboration. The CCM model prescribestactics to ensure collaboration. Using pre and post testing, we studied course outcomes ofsoftware engineering graduate students learning software systems design that have also utilizedthe CCM in a systems design project. We hypothesized that the students who utilized the CCMfor their system design project will have a significantly higher course outcome. 1. J.M. Levine, L.V. Resnick, and E.T. Higgins. (1993) Social foundations of cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 44, January 1993, pp. 585-612. 2. DeFranco, J.F., Neill, C.J., Clariana, R.B. (2011). A Cognitive Collaborative Model To Improve Performance in Engineering Teams – A Study of Team Outcomes and Mental Model Sharing, Systems Engineering Journal, 14 (3). 3. DeFranco, J.F., Neill, C.J., “Problem-Solving Style and its Impact on Engineering Team Effectiveness”, CSER (Conference on Systems Engineering Research) 2011.

Neill, C. J., & DeFranco, J. F., & Sangwan, R. S. (2012, June), A Study of Individual Learning in Software Engineering Team Projects Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20866

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