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Social Network Analysis: Peer Support and Peer Management in Multidisciplinary, Vertically Integrated Teams

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Engineering Programs

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

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Paper Authors


J. Sonnenberg-Klein Georgia Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Assistant Director, Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program, Georgia Institute of Technology; Doctoral student in Education at Georgia State University, with a concentration in Research, Measurement and Statistics; Master of Education in Education Organization and Leadership, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Randal T. Abler Georgia Institute of Technology


Edward J. Coyle Georgia Institute of Technology

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Edward J. Coyle is the John B. Peatman Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, directs the Arbutus Center for the Integration of Research and Education, and is the founder of the Vertically-Integrated Projects (VIP) Program. He is a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and was a co-recipient of both the National Academy of Engineering’s 2005 Bernard M. Gordon Award for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education and ASEE's 1997 Chester F. Carlson Award. Dr. Coyle is a Fellow of the IEEE and his research interests include engineering education, wireless networks, and digital signal processing.

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In the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program, undergraduates earn academic credit for their participation in long-term, large-scale projects. Teams are created at the request of faculty and are embedded in their ongoing research/innovation efforts. Students can participate for multiple semesters and up to three years. Two important elements of VIP teams are peer-to-peer support and peer project management. Encouraging students to assist each other (peer support), and to be aware of each other’s work and hold each other accountable (peer management) shifts ownership of key aspects of the project to students, thus decreasing instructor time spent on low and mid-level operational/logistics issues. Through social network analysis of peer evaluations (N=483), this paper quantifies peer support and management between students on VIP teams at the Georgia Institute of Technology, examining patterns within individual teams and across the site. A previous study found that within teams, students interacted more often with students from majors other than their own and more often with students of other races/ethnicities than their own. Another previous study found stronger connections between students within academic ranks (sophomore to sophomore, junior to junior, etc.). To better understand dynamics within VIP teams, this analysis considers how 1) academic rank, 2) student major, and 3) number of semesters in VIP affect student interactions in peer support and peer management. The study looks at team-level interactions as well as program-wide patterns, providing a wide view of VIP student engagement across many different projects and teams. The results and method of analysis would be of interest to current and prospective VIP sites, as well as programs seeking to develop or quantify multidisciplinary student experiences.

Sonnenberg-Klein, J., & Abler, R. T., & Coyle, E. J. (2018, June), Social Network Analysis: Peer Support and Peer Management in Multidisciplinary, Vertically Integrated Teams Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30972

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