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Effects of Different Team Formation Strategies on Performance in an Undergraduate Introductory Mechanical Engineering Course

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Building Success in the Online Classroom

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Hayden K. Richards US Air Force Academy

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Capt Hayden K. Richards is an instructor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, US Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO.

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Phillip Cornwell United States Air Force Academy

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Phillip Cornwell currently teaches at the United States Air Force Academy and is an Emeritus Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1989 and his present interests include structural dynamics, structural health monitoring, and undergraduate engineering education. Dr. Cornwell has received an SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award in 1992, and the Dean’s Outstanding Teacher award at Rose-Hulman in 2000 and the Rose-Hulman Board of Trustee’s Outstanding Scholar Award in 2001. He was one of the developers of the Rose-Hulman Sophomore Engineering Curriculum, the Dynamics Concept Inventory, and he is a co-author of Vector Mechanics for Engineers: Dynamics, by Beer, Johnston, Cornwell, and Self. In 2019 Dr. Cornwell received the Archie Higdon Distinguished Educator Award from the Mechanics Division of ASEE.

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During the spring semester of 2020, four different team formation strategies were employed to assign student working groups in four otherwise identical sections of an undergraduate introductory mechanical engineering course. The four team formation strategies were 1) random, 2) by merit, with teams based on similar performance on previous exams, 3) student-selected, and 4) geographical proximity of student housing. Students were supposed to complete three team assignments during the semester, but due to COVID-19, they completed only one team assignment before being sent home. The completed assignment was a lab which included the writing of a formal report. Performance on this assignment was compared across the different teams, sections, and individual students’ results, with the goal being to determine if certain team formation strategies have a beneficial effect on performance for both the teams and the individuals. Analysis of the data indicates that student-selected teams performed better on the team assignment than teams formed using other strategies, but the observed improvement was not statistically significant. We believe this was due to the small sample size. In addition, while there was no statistical difference in the incoming average student GPA for different course sections, the incoming GPA of students did have a predictive effect on team assignment performance. Finally, the transition to remote learning (in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic) had a negative effect on student performance, and this negative consequence disproportionately affected students who were already poor performers.

Richards, H. K., & Cornwell, P. (2021, July), Effects of Different Team Formation Strategies on Performance in an Undergraduate Introductory Mechanical Engineering Course Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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