The social web of engineering education: Knowledge exchange in integrated project teams

Julia Ellen Melkers, Agrita Kiopa, Randal T. Abler, Edward J. Coyle, Joseph M. Ernst, James V. Krogmeier, Amos Johnson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Engineering education is evolving to become an environment of project-based learning, research assistantships, and other mechanisms that approximate the research and collaborative aspects of true-tolife processes. From this diverse set of learning environments, students are expected to not only gain technical skills, but also social and group skills relevant to the realities of collaborative work in engineering. This expectation is in turn underscored by ABET accreditation standards, which extend beyond simply technical skills to include the development and learning of professional skills. In this paper, we ask: From an instructional perspective, how can learning outcomes be better observed so that faculty can provide appropriate guidance and occasional control? What are the sources of this diversity of learning within student groups? How do the ways that engineering students interact in team network environments matter for the skills that they develop through this experience? Scholars working in the science of learning argue that peer-relations form a social context of knowledge creation that constitutes a foundation for the development of team-skills. In this paper, we show how peer relations develop, and subsequently provide knowledge and learning resources within multi-ranked student teams over time. The data in this paper are based on a multi-year evaluation of the NSF-funded Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program at two institutions. The VIP Program brings together graduate and undergraduate students to solve applied engineering problems. Results show different patterns of knowledge seeking and exchange behavior across student groups. These results show that technical knowledge sources are distinct from project management and related information needs. Most interestingly, results show that knowledge exchange does not maintain its hierarchy. Undergraduate students develop their own information communities within teams, including regarding technical information. These results have important implications for the management of teams that include a range of students and expertise.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2012 ASEE ANNUAL CONFERENCE
PublisherAmerican Society for Engineering Education
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9780878232413
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
Event119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - San Antonio, TX, United States
Duration: 10 Jun 201213 Jun 2012
Conference number: 119

Publication series

NameASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Electronic)2153-5965


Conference119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Antonio, TX
Internet address


  • Team based learning
  • VIP program
  • Social networks
  • Student teams
  • Science eduducation

Field of Science*

  • 5.9 Other social sciences

Publication Type*

  • 3.1. Articles or chapters in proceedings/scientific books indexed in Web of Science and/or Scopus database


Dive into the research topics of 'The social web of engineering education: Knowledge exchange in integrated project teams'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this