June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
New Engineering Educators
26.822.1 - 26.822.14
Go Team! The Role of the Study Group in Academic SuccessABET ensures that every undergraduate engineering student is active in teams (either formed byfaculty or self-assembled) for both short and long term projects. Full benefits of teamwork,however, are not always realized in these formal project teams. In fact, it is not uncommon forour engineering students to complete work individually and then force fit the pieces together thenight before a deadline. Yet, all is not lost. Some formal project teams work extremely well,providing educational benefit that could never be realized by students working alone. However,those teams that students form outside the classroom, whether with the help of a faculty memberor without, can be just as important as those organized in the classroom or formal academiccontext.In this paper, we look at the communities and groups where engineering students work and learnoutside the classroom, ranging from study groups to design project teams to professional societycommunities. Among four diverse institutions, we evaluate which academic communities,groups, or teams students participate in and when asked, which they tend to speak about morethan others. We also probe more deeply into how and why the most effective teams or groupswork for students.In a mixed methods approach, our quantitative (survey) data first show which academiccommunities students participate in and how active they are in these communities. Ourqualitative data (interviews and focus groups) then explain how the most influential communitieswork for students. Our results show that while students reported participating at various levels,ranging from minimally to very active, in a broad range of academic groups available throughtheir home departments and colleges, they most often chose to discuss their experiences in studygroups (83%) or lab groups (82%). Of these students, most (87%) found benefit in participatingin these lab and study groups. Furthermore, a majority of the students (72%) felt that theybenefitted in ways related to operating within the group as an integral part of the team, stressingthe potential of the team to succeed in problem solving and other activities much moreeffectively than a single individual working alone.The fact that most students, without prompting, reflected on the benefits of working incommunities with respect to their academic lives outside of the classroom reaffirms that evenintrovert-dominated fields like engineering tend to seek and gain significant benefits fromteamwork. However, these results must be interpreted with caution because it is the teams thatevolve by student self-selection processes over time that most often provide these benefits, whilesuccess in assigned teams may not be as prevalent. Thus, educators may benefit from observingand examining the informal, self-assembled working teams students create in order to modify theway they organize, assign, diagnose, and support more formal project teams within courses andclassroom.
Wilson, D., & Allendoerfer, C., & Bates, R. A., & Smith, T. F., & Plett, M. I., & Veilleux, N. M., & Kim, M. J. (2015, June), Go Team! The Role of the Study Group in Academic Success Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24159
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