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Understanding the Impact of Strategic Team Formation in Early Programming Education

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Curricular Issues in Computing

Tagged Division

Computing & Information Technology

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Paper Authors


Tony Andrew Lowe Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

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Tony Lowe is a PhD student in Engineering Education at Purdue University. He has a BSEE from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and a MSIT from Capella. He currently teaches as an adjunct Assistant Professor at CTU Online and has been an on-and-off corporate educator and full time software architect for twenty years.

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Sean P. Brophy Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

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Dr. Sean Brophy is a mechanical engineer, computer scientist and learning scientists. His research in engineering education and learning sciences explores how undergraduate engineering students develop skills in design, troubleshooting and analytical reasoning. He is particularly interested in how these skills develop through students' interaction with technology.

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This evidence based research looks at the impact of a peer learning using the Bauhaus studio model in a first year engineering class with a large emphasis on programming. Each team is formulated with a “more knowledgeable other” (Vygotsky, 1962), based on self-reported prior learning, with the goal of aiding the rest of the team through early programming challenges. In addition to the professor, and teaching assistants, having a peer act as a mentor can yield higher satisfaction and confidence in learners (Salleh et al., 2011). The study looks at surveys and grades from students at a large Midwestern University. The students are broken into teams based on many criteria, one of which is their background in programming. Teams ideally are formed to include at least one ‘ringer’ with prior programming experience. This analysis compares progressive learning outcomes through the term comparing teams with and without ‘ringers’. Data has been collected from 2013, 2014, and 2015 with trends apparent in each of the years across major topics. The major research questions investigate the role of the ringer in the success of the team, as well looking to see if teams that include a low performing student have any common characteristics. This study shows that the formulation of teams around a carefully selected more knowledgeable other can improve the learning of the entire team. In general, the better the ringer score correlates to an increase in the rest of the team’s average. This only extends to a certain degree where if the ringer’s score is too large a gap from the rest of the team, lower performing members can suffer. In general the formation of teams using prior programming experience seems to do no harm and even possibly improve learning outcomes, and the data may suggest further improvements on the use of teams as well.

Lowe, T. A., & Brophy, S. P. (2017, June), Understanding the Impact of Strategic Team Formation in Early Programming Education Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29055

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