This paper describes a simple technique, structured pairing, for organizing student teams in engineering instructional laboratories. This technique was adapted from pair programming, which was previously found to improve student confidence, satisfaction, and retention in computer science. A study of structured pairing was implemented in a large required course for first-year students in electrical and computer engineering. Six laboratory sections implemented structured pairing, and the other seven laboratory sections operated in a traditional way (i.e., unstructured team interactions). Data were collected from a student survey, two focus groups, and course enrollment records. Structured pairing students reported significantly higher confidence in laboratory tasks and satisfaction with the course and teamwork experiences. Focus group data indicated that structured pairing students experienced reciprocal scaffolding (i.e., students acknowledged that they learned from each other). Short-term retention in engineering did not differ significantly between structured pairing and traditional section students. These findings suggest that structured pairing is a more engaging and motivating alternative to traditional laboratory teaming methods.
Michael C. Loui
National Science Foundation DUE-0942331, DUE-1044207, and DUE-1140554
Associated Research Groups
Collaborative learning, teamwork, laboratory, retention
Date of this Version
Fila, N. D., & Loui, M. C. (2014). Structured pairing in a first-year electrical and computer engineering laboratory: The effects on student retention, attitudes, and teamwork. International Journal of Engineering Education, 30(4), 848-861.