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Work in Progress: Promoting Group Work for Learning: Student Characterizations of Exemplary Project Group Members

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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

Faculty Development Work-in-Progress Poster Session

Tagged Topic

Faculty Development Constituency Committee

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Paper Authors


Jim L. Borgford-Parnell University of Washington Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Jim Borgford-Parnell is Director and Instructional Consultant of the Office for the Advancement of Engineering Teaching & Learning at the University of Washington. He taught design, education-research methods, and adult and higher education theory and pedagogy courses for over 35 years. He has been involved in instructional development for 20 years, and currently does both research and instructional development in engineering education. Jim has taught courses on the development of reflective teaching practices, and has presented workshops on learning how to learn and developing metacognitive awareness. He has published and presented on engineering design, engineering pedagogies, and instructional development topics.

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Ken Yasuhara University of Washington

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Ken Yasuhara is an instructional consultant and assistant director at the Office for the Advancement of Engineering Teaching & Learning (ET&L) at the University of Washington. He completed an A.B. in computer science at Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. in computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. When he finds the time, he plays with bicycle tools and knitting needles.

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Kamal Abdulla Ahmed University of Washington


David Schipf University of Washington

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David is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. He is focusing on optical communications and other applied optics topics, as well as sensors and micro-systems. He has become increasingly interested in engineering education research and practical improvements to undergraduate and graduate education in the science and engineering fields.

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This Work-in-Progress paper details our extensive experience with a student workshop model and ongoing analysis of data collected in the workshops. At the [institution’s] [teaching and learning organization], our primary activity is instructional consultation with faculty, but we also frequently guest-present a workshop for students entitled “Teamwork for learning and project success.” Engineering faculty invite us to present this workshop in a wide range of group-project courses.

The workshop’s immediate, practical objective is to help students begin group work on the right footing. The fundamental emphasis, however, is on seeing group projects (at least in school) primarily as a context and vehicle for learning. Our experience suggests that both students and faculty tend to see efficient project completion, quality of work, and realistic preparation for professional life as the primary reasons for doing course projects in groups. While valid, none of these reasons alludes to the fact that learning with other people is a highly effective way to learn. As detailed in this paper, our workshop equips and encourages students and faculty alike to appreciate group project work in terms of retention, access, and transfer of knowledge.

The workshop is timed to occur after project groups have been formed. During the workshop, students confer in their project groups, and each group develops a consensus list of characteristics of exemplary group members. These characteristics become the criteria they later use for peer assessment.

Over the course of many workshops in several years, we have collected these lists from hundreds of groups and have begun analyzing them for common patterns. We discuss encouraging results suggesting that even lower-division undergraduates list characteristics that align well with the conditions that the group learning and project management literatures identify as contributing to successful learning and project completion, respectively. We conjecture that much of the workshop’s value lies in two distinct outcomes: (1) helping students articulate and place confidence in their experientially derived knowledge concerning effective group work and (2) helping both students and faculty (re-)frame the group project as a uniquely powerful opportunity for learning—not just a means toward successful project completion.

Borgford-Parnell, J. L., & Yasuhara, K., & Ahmed, K. A., & Schipf, D. (2018, June), Work in Progress: Promoting Group Work for Learning: Student Characterizations of Exemplary Project Group Members Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31301

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