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Automating The Process Of Assigning Students To Cooperative Learning Teams

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Student Teams & Active Learning

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.246.1 - 9.246.14



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Paper Authors

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Ryan Cavanaugh

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Matt Ellis

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Mark Ardis

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Richard Layton

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2131

Automating the Process of Assigning Students to Cooperative- Learning Teams Ryan Cavanaugh, Matt Ellis, Richard Layton, Mark Ardis Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology


Assigning students to teams can be a time-consuming process, especially for cooperative learning teams. This paper describes the initial development and testing of a web-based system to assign students to teams using instructor-defined criteria, including criteria consistent with the cooperative learning literature. First, the instructor decides which attributes of students to measure in assigning teams. Next, students complete confidential surveys to determine their attributes. Finally, the instructor assigns a weighting factor to each attribute and the system assigns students to teams. The purpose of the system is to shorten the time to assign teams and to improve the likelihood that teams will satisfy an instructor’s criteria for team formation.

The Team-Maker system provides two web interfaces—one for the instructor and one for students. The instructor’s interface is used to create the survey and, once students have completed the survey, to assign students to teams in accordance with an instructor-defined weighting scheme. The student’s interface allows each student to complete the confidential survey. Features of the team-assignment system important to forming cooperative-learning teams include: the instructor decides which attributes or skills (e.g., grades in prior courses, GPA, writing skill) are to be distributed heterogeneously across teams; the prevention, if possible, of underrepresented minorities being outnumbered on a team; and matching student schedules such that members of a team have a reasonable expectation of being able to meet outside of class.

To test the system, 86 students already assigned to teams by instructors in four sections of a sophomore-level course completed the survey in Spring 2003. In this paper, the teams created manually by the instructors are compared to the teams suggested by the automated system. Results of initial testing are described and plans for future development are outlined. The results show that the system is effective at meeting the instructor’s criteria for good team formation and saving the instructor time. The source code for the application is available under an open source license for free distribution and modification.

1. Introduction

1.1 Problem statement

Forming student teams for group work often entails a major time investment for instructors. To make teams according to guidelines given in the cooperative-learning literature, instructors typically design a survey, issue copies to students, collect them, and shuffle the surveys around until satisfactory teams are made. Discussion of the teaching/learning principles underlying this

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Cavanaugh, R., & Ellis, M., & Ardis, M., & Layton, R. (2004, June), Automating The Process Of Assigning Students To Cooperative Learning Teams Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13751

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