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Increasing student responsibility in design projects with agile methods

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Design in Engineering Education (DEED) Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.738.1 - 23.738.12



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Paper Authors

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Martin Grimheden Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

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Increasing student responsibility in design projects with agile methodsAgile methods emerged in the software industry in sharp contrast to more formal methods,such as the V-model and the Waterfall method. The Agile Manifesto intended to increase theresponsibility of the team, of empowering a team of peers to perform the task given to theteam. Responsibility and the tools necessary to take this responsibility were crucial.This paper attempts to investigate the potential of merging agile methods with student projectsin higher engineering education. The context of this study consists of a number of capstoneprojects within two comparable courses in the subjects of mechatronics and embeddedsystems given at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. In a typicalcapstone project in this setting, students work in teams of about 10 students, over a period ofabout nine months (minus a summer break).Six capstone projects are studied; three were organized according to scrum and three to moreformal methods. The six projects included in total 54 students. The six capstone projects weredivided into two groups, following two different courses. Students of both courses either tooka course in project management prior to the capstone course or in parallel. One of the twoproject management courses emphasized agile methods, the other more formal methods. Thestudent teams who followed the project management course in agile methods wereencouraged to organize their teams and projects according to scrum.The core of scrum is to empower the student team to organize the task together with the ideaof quick prototyping for fast customer feedback while formal methods rely more heavily ondocumentation, planning and preparation. The hypothesis for this study, is that delegating theresponsibility of project organization to the student team would motivate the students to take agreater responsibility for both the project and their own learning, and, that this in the endwould increase student learning.The results of this study shows that the students on the three scrum-teams did take a largeresponsibility for organizational aspects; how to organize the project work, largerresponsibility for activities related to the course, and in aspects and actions related to reachingthe learning goals of the course. Students in the three non-agile projects also took a largeresponsibility for project organization, but in a comparison between the scrum-teams and thenon-scrum-teams the non-scrum-teams spent considerably more time on planning, preparationand documentation than the scrum-teams.In comparison between the two categories of projects, it is shown that the scrum-teamsshowed more signs of taking responsibility for achieving learning goals than in the non-scrum-teams. While the non-scrum-teams showed a great dedication toward finalizing projectresults, the scrum-teams also showed dedication toward performing activities with thepurpose of reaching a learning goal not directly necessary for the project results. Even if thelearning achievements are hard to measure, the evidence of increased responsibility for thelearning process shows signs of increased learning related to the course goals.

Grimheden, M. (2013, June), Increasing student responsibility in design projects with agile methods Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19752

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