The Impact of Unequal Contributions in Student Software Engineering Team Projects

Kamilla Kopec-Harding, Sukru Eraslanb, Bowen Cai, Suzanne Embury, Caroline Jay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Unequal distribution of work is a common problem in student team projects, undermining learning objectives and reducing student satisfaction with team work. More is needed to be known about the impact of unequal distribution of work on the performance of student software engineering teams and their members and the relationship between objective measures of unequal contribution and team-perceived unequal contribution. A greater understanding of these issues allows for targeted and personalised responses to these behaviours. We investigated several aspects of unequal contribution in student software engineering teams. We measured inequality of contribution using Git data from student software engineering teams, source code quality using code analyser SonarQube, and the team performance using grades. According to our results, most students under-contributed to their teams, and at least half the teams in each assignment had low equality of contribution or extreme inequality of contribution. Individual contribution styles did not strongly persist between modules (one-semester-long software engineering courses). There were no consistent associations between inequality of contribution in the student teams and performance or code quality. When the contribution of the least active team member was less than 14% of their fair share, teams were likely to perceive an unequal distribution of contributions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of Systems and Software
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Sept 2023


  • Student team projects
  • Team work
  • Work distribution
  • Post-secondary education


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