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I will be conducting a course with 10 students and will provide about 12 topics. Each student shall work on one topic. I will meet with the students and present the topics to them.

What is a good method to assign the topics to the students?

I would like to give them the option to choose their own topic, but I foresee problems when some topics are very wanted and others are not...

  • In my experience, with only 10 students and directly in class, things work out rather well if you let the students assign topics more or less peer-to-peer. – xLeitix Apr 9 '14 at 14:26
  • That is, as long as it is not the case that a small subset of topics is widely preferable for the majority of students. But in that case you have a different problem anyway. – xLeitix Apr 9 '14 at 14:28
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    Have each student rank the projects in desirability and apply the stable marriage algorithm. This will guarantee no pair exists who would both prefer the other's project. – TheMathemagician Apr 10 '14 at 14:30
  • @xLeitix: I actually did as you suggested and it worked extremely well. So if you would write a formal answer I accept it. – Danvil Apr 16 '14 at 12:19
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I have seen instructors/advisors assign the topics by random chance, followed by a brief 'trading session'. Students pick the topic out of a hat, but they then have the option to trade with other students. Of course, some students may be stuck with a topic that they didn't really want, but they should also have the option to work with you to tweak the assignment into something that they can be passionate about. Since you say that you will have more topics than students, you could also have the option to put their draw back into the hat and try again (after everyone else has drawn at least once). This method seems most likely to avoid the problem of a student feeling as though they were forced to take a 'very much not wanted' topic.

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