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Models and Modeling in Engineering Education

Designing Experiences for All Students

Edited by Judith S. Zawojewski, Heidi A. Diefes-Dux and Keith J. Bowman

Few research-based resources make engagement in engineering education reform and research practical for current and future educators. Yet, engineering educators are under immense pressure to address a wide variety of educational goals that extend well beyond the traditional student learning of engineering science and design. The now familiar ABET Criterion 3 a though k has placed the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of every engineering faculty member to ensure that our graduates have abilities in the areas of problem solving in complex engineering settings, teaming and communication and understandings in the areas of ethics, global and societal impact, and contemporary issues. Engineering educators must also concern themselves with recruitment and retention of a diverse student population. Creating learning experiences and environments that encourage and support the success of all students is a priority for engineering education reform.
This book is primarily being written for current and future engineering educators and researchers. The focus is on the design, development, implementation, and study of a special category of open-ended problems—the model-eliciting activity. These are realistic problems with engineering content and contexts designed to tap the strengths of all students while providing hooks to address simultaneously other educational goals. As problem solving is at the heart of engineering education and practice, it is a theme of wide appeal to engineering educators. The aims of this book are to (1) provide engineering faculty with practical tools for creating, implementing, and assessing the use of open-ended problems that meet a variety of educational goals, (2) facilitate future collaborations between engineering and education, (3) forward engineering education as a scholarly discipline by providing a resource with which to inform and teach future educators and researchers.
The book describes how incorporating mathematical modeling activities and projects, that are designed to reflect authentic engineering experience, into engineering classes has the potential to enhance and tap the diverse strengths of students who come from a variety of backgrounds. Based on the experience of a cadre of engineering and education professors who were at Purdue University during a major curriculum reform effort, this book provides a case study of the Purdue experience, which in part launched the historical beginning of the Department of Engineering Education, the first program in the United States. The reader will be provided with critical activities and tools designed during the project, and the book will be written in a way to help the reader adapt the work to their own situations.
More Detail About the Content
The NSF-funded Small Group Mathematical Modeling for Improved Gender Equity (SGMM) Project featured activities that require students to work in small technical teams to design mathematical models in response to engineering-related problems. Students produce a product for a specified client who communicates an explicitly stated need. Because the activities are designed such that the mathematical model is the answer/product, students’ mathematical thinking is revealed, providing data for formative and evaluative assessment of the curriculum innovation. The activities and the data derived from the use of the activities acted as a seeds for system reform, which resulted in changes in practice, perspectives and beliefs on the parts of engineering and education professors, and graduate researcher assistants.
The curriculum reform was initiated and studied at Purdue University between 2001 and 2005, and has involved class sizes ranging from 30 to 1400. Currently all first-year engineering students at Purdue and selected second- and third-year engineering students complete these activities in small technical teams, providing opportunities for all students to engage in authentic engineering content from day one of their educational career at Purdue. The use of meaningful problem-solving experiences, realistic engineering contexts, and small group work taps the strengths that women and minorities bring to engineering, while also providing a sound educational experience for all students that address the intent of ABET Education Criteria 2000.
Design research methodology was the theoretical frame used for studying, revising, and improving the educational innovation. The methodology is similar to design research used by research engineers, involving iterative cycles of testing and revising various aspects of the innovation. The findings indicate that students (especially women and other underrepresented groups) perceive the modeling work as interesting and motivating, and that the innovation is likely to be maintained at Purdue long beyond the life of the project. In particular, the cadre of faculty and graduate students involved in the project have learned to design the activities that adhere to a set of principles, have developed a system for gathering formative information that continues to feedback into the system for the purpose of continued improvement, have advanced in their understanding of engineering education, and many of the graduate students have moved on to university positions bringing the ideas along with them to their new environments.
The book includes three resources for the reader. The first is a theoretical framework from which to consider engineering education as moving away from “skills first, then problem solving” to “skills through problem solving with authentic engineering problems”, along with research findings that provide an empirically-based vision of this type of reform (consistent with ABET EC 2000). The second type of resource includes tools and descriptions of their use in the Purdue context. The sample tools include modeling activities, well-described implementation support systems (e. g., Internet-based assignments), and tools for gathering information (e. g., survey items, interview protocol) that can be readily adapted to the reader’s own programmatic situation. As a third resource, the reference list includes readings that span engineering education to educational research that will be useful as others pursue reading and research in the multi-disciplinary field of engineering education.

Xiangyun Du, Erik de Graaff and Anette Kolmos

Javier Garcia and Jorge E. Perez

In the context of the Computer Science career, we have designed a course on Real Time Systems using a Project Based Learning approach. This course is based on six educational methodologies. Our students have a limited amount of time to develop the project, and consequently, a main objective in the design of the course has been to fully take advantage of every programmed session. Educational methodologies have been chosen according to the work that students needed to do at each stage of the project. Besides planning activities, we established several mechanisms to compile information about the course’s development. The course’s design has been effective and reaches the goal of supporting PBL development. However, the analysis of the results has allowed us to detect that students do not spend enough time to study and showed the necessity of opening more sessions dedicated to methodologies such as oral presentations and lab sessions.

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Edited by David B. Zandvliet

Research in environmental education (EE) is a growing field of inquiry and should be seen as respondent to a variety of program developments around the world. These diverse programs are the context for this body of educational research. Diversity in EE research is also compounded when one considers the various cultures, epistemologies and research traditions that may inform the field. This complexity accounts for the range of forms for environmental learning in formal, informal or non-formal contexts.
There is a good deal of evidence that, in order to be more responsive to the needs of diverse populations, program developments around the world are now beginning to reflect the variation in our society. However, the same cannot always be said in terms of research methodologies within mainstream environmental education research. Outside of a few examples, there seems to have been very little in the way of development of research genres aimed at understanding, characterizing and supporting cultural diversity within much of mainstream environmental education. Diversity of method may also be important for the overall quality (or health) of environmental education research. To locate many of the new ideas and approaches in this area, one needs to look outside environmental education, towards general educational research, or to other fields such as environmental justice, indigenous education, science education and health education to name only a few examples.
This volume of original research reports from around the globe begins to richly describe aspects of diversity in environmental education research. It does so in two ways: first, it mirrors the diversity of voices and cultures that are conducting research in this ever-broadening and increasingly global and international field of inquiry, second: it illuminates a potential diversity of research methods by highlighting a range of methodologies salient in other fields which have emerging promise for the practice of research in environmental education.

Sandra Fernandes, Maria Assunção Flores and Rui M. Lima

The Bologna Process has introduced a number of changes in Higher Education institutions, namely in curricula restructuring and in new methodologies of teaching and assessing, amongst others. Also of importance is the need to improve student achievement which has to focus not only upon the development of technical competencies, but also upon the development of transversal competencies. This paper aims to give an overview of an ongoing and broader piece of research on impact assessment of Project-Led Education (PLE) on students’ learning, and its contribution to the improvement of teaching and learning in Higher Education. It is based on a longitudinal approach with first year Industrial Management and Engineering students, who participated in PLE experiences. For this, the CIPP (Context, Input, Process, Product) Evaluation Model was used as a framework for evaluating the impact of the programme (Stufflebeam, 2003). Data were collected through qualitative and quantitative research methods, according to the four dimensions of evaluation in CIPP. Findings suggest that the CIPP Model provided a broad understanding of the evaluation process, thus linking the evaluation and decision-making processes. Data collected from students, in regard to PLE processes and outcomes, showed a stronger articulation between theory and practice, which improved learning and increased student motivation. The project was considered a good way to develop not only technical skills, but also important transversal competencies such as project management, problem solving, communication skills and teamwork. Greater involvement of students in the assessment process and the need to clarify and share a common understanding of the tutor’s role, mostly amongst tutors themselves, were some of the key issues for further improvement that emerged from the data collected.