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The Social Web of Engineering Education: Knowledge Exchange in Integrated Project Teams

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Conference

2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Teams and Teamwork in Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count

21

Page Numbers

25.1345.1 - 25.1345.21

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/22102

Download Count

18

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Paper Authors

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Julia Ellen Melkers Geogia Institute of Technology

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Julia Melkers is Associate Professor of public policy at Georgia Tech. Her current research addresses capacity development, collaboration patterns, social networks, and related outcomes of science.

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Agrita Kiopa Georgia Institute of Technology

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Agrita Kiopa is a doctoral candidate at the School of Public Policy.

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Randal T. Abler Georgia Institute of Technology

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Edward J. Coyle Georgia Institute of Technology

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

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Joseph M. Ernst Purdue University

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Joseph M. Ernst was born in Kansas City, Mo., in 1983. He received the B.S.E.E. degree from the University of Notre Dame in 2006. He is currently working toward a Ph.D. degree at Purdue University. His research interests include statistical signal processing, estimation theory, sensor networking, and embedded systems.

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James V. Krogmeier Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Amos Johnson Morehouse College

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Amos Johnson is a graduate of Morehouse College and Georgia Institute of Technology, where he received dual degrees in general science (Morehouse) and electrical engineering (Georgia Institute of Technology). Later, he earned a M.S. degree in electrical and computer engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, and finally a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.

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Abstract

The Social Web of Engineering Education: Knowledge Exchange in Integrated Project TeamsStudent learning in engineering is increasingly conceived as a process and experience that issituated in what Johri and Olds have called a “complex web of social organization,” rather thanone that is limited to “shifts in the mental structures of a learner.” In fact, the social organizationacross different fields of engineering includes project-based learning, research assistantships, andother mechanisms that approximate the research and collaborative aspects of true-to-lifeprocesses. These active learning experiences typically involve peer interactions, and thecreation of social communities that focus on applied problems, important for the development ofprofessional capabilities. In turn, the core of cooperative learning is the promotion of learningthrough providing cooperative incentives rather than competition. In many ways, this emphasison team work in engineering schools has evolved to embrace not only different approaches toformal learning through classroom and various applied experiences, but also the informallearning that takes places outside of structured activities. From this diverse set of learningenvironments, students are expected to not only gain technical skills, but also social and groupskills relevant to the realities of collaborative work in engineering. This expectation is in turnunderscored by accreditation standards of ABET, which include the development of professionalskills. We ask: What are the sources of this learning? From whom, or where, do these learningresources flow? Are knowledge flows fairly hierarchical, moving from advanced students tothose less experienced? From an instructional perspective, how can learning outcomes be betterobserved so that faculty can provide appropriate guidance and occasional control? Scholars working in the science of learning argue that peer-relations form a social contextof knowledge creation that constitutes a foundation for the development of team-skills. In thispaper we show how peer relations develop, and subsequently provide knowledge and learningresources within multi-ranked student teams over time. The data in this paper are based on amulti-year evaluation of the NSF-funded Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program, whichbrings together graduate and undergraduate students to solve applied engineering problems.Projects are designed so that graduate students can assume leadership roles, and, thus, gainexperience in real-time project planning and implementation and management ofmultidisciplinary teams. Building on the situative learning perspective, we examine the socialrelationships that occur among the students working in this VIP “complex web of socialorganization.” Results show different patterns of knowledge seeking and exchange behavioracross student groups. These results show that technical knowledge sources are distinct fromproject management and related information needs. Most interestingly, results show thatknowledge exchange does not maintain its hierarchy. Undergraduate students develop their owninformation communities within teams, including regarding technical information. These resultshave important implications for the management of teams that include a range of students andexpertise.

Melkers, J. E., & Kiopa, A., & Abler, R. T., & Coyle, E. J., & Ernst, J. M., & Krogmeier, J. V., & Johnson, A. (2012, June), The Social Web of Engineering Education: Knowledge Exchange in Integrated Project Teams Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/22102

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