Who Does What? Work Division and Allocation Strategies of Computer Science Student Teams

Anna van der Meulen, Efthimia Aivaloglou

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


Collaboration skills are important for future software engineers. In computer science education, these skills are of-ten practiced through group assignments, where students develop software collaboratively. The approach that students take in these assignments varies widely, but often involves a division of labour. It can then be argued whether collaboration still takes place. The discipline of computing education is especially interesting in this context, because some of its specific features (such as the variation in entry skill level and the use of source code repositories as collaboration platforms) are likely to influence the approach taken within groupwork. The aim of this research is to gain insight into the work division and allocation strategies applied by computer science students during group assignments. To this end, we interviewed twenty students of four universities. The thematic analysis shows that students tend to divide up the workload to enable working independently, with pair programming and code reviews being often employed. Motivated primarily by grade and efficiency factors, students choose and allocate tasks primarily based on their prior expertise and preferences. Based on our findings, we argue that the setup of group assignments can limit students' motivation for practicing new software engineering skills, and that interventions are needed towards encouraging experimentation and learning.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2021 IEEE/ACM 43rd International Conference on Software Engineering: Software Engineering Education and Training (ICSE-SEET)
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780738133201
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Computing education
  • group projects
  • programming
  • team work


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