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This work presents an original approach for identifying and analyzing cognitive aspects specific to artifacts creation in the context of a senior-level project-course. We analyzed the effort spent by student teams on each specific artifact meant for two different processes carried on in parallel: UPEDU (unified process for education) - the traditional activity-role-artifact based methodology and XP (extreme programming) - an agile methodology. For this purpose we extend the notion of mental model to software process and we propose to consider the terms of mental artifact and physical artifact. Even though the two used processes are very different, our results show that the same effort is spent on mental artifacts as on physical artifacts, in the context of both processes. The comparison results may allow a better understanding of students' cognitive behavior, in order to designate the required actions for improving academic projects.