Skip to main content

Social Network Analysis: Peer Support and Peer Management in Multidisciplinary, Vertically Integrated Teams

J. Sonnenberg-Klein
R. T. Abler
E. J. Coyle
In the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program, undergraduates earn academic credit for their participation in long-term, large-scale projects. Teams are created at the request of faculty and are embedded in their ongoing research/innovation efforts. Students can participate for multiple semesters and up to three years. Two important elements of VIP teams are peer-to-peer support and peer project management. Encouraging students to assist each other (peer support), and to be aware of each other’s work and hold each other accountable (peer management) shifts ownership of key aspects of the project to students, thus decreasing instructor time spent on low and mid-level operational/logistics issues. Through social network analysis of peer evaluations (N=483), this paper quantifies peer support and management between students on VIP teams at the Georgia Institute of Technology, examining patterns within individual teams and across the site. A previous study found that within teams, students interacted more often with students from majors other than their own and more often with students of other races/ethnicities than their own. Another previous study found stronger connections between students within academic ranks (sophomore to sophomore, junior to junior, etc.). To better understand dynamics within VIP teams, this analysis considers how 1) academic rank, 2) student major, and 3) number of semesters in VIP affect student interactions in peer support and peer management. The study looks at team-level interactions as well as program-wide patterns, providing a wide view of VIP student engagement across many different projects and teams. The results and method of analysis would be of interest to current and prospective VIP sites, as well as programs seeking to develop or quantify multidisciplinary student experiences.
Publication Year