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A Framework For Interpreting Students' Perceptions Of An Integrated Curriculum

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.32.1 - 6.32.14



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Paper Authors

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Youki Terada

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Pam Sirivedhin

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Flora McMartin

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Alice Agogino

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Ann McKenna

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1330

A Framework for Interpreting Students’ Perceptions of an Integrated Curriculum

Ann McKenna1, Flora McMartin, Youki Terada, Vanravi Sirivedhin, Alice Agogino

Northwestern University1/University of California at Berkeley


Undergraduate engineering reform efforts to better integrate math, science and engineering courses have recently been conducted at the University of California at Berkeley. Since 1998, faculty from the mathematics, physics, and engineering departments at Berkeley have collaborated to restructure first year and lower division courses. Several changes were made to specific courses to improve students’ integrative understanding of calculus and the physical sciences, and to emphasize applications to engineering. Various data have been collected to investigate the impact the reforms had on student learning, as well as to gain insight into students’ experiences during their undergraduate engineering career. Interviews were conducted with engineering students and faculty to garner feedback about integration efforts and students perceptions of the curriculum. This paper describes the interview project and outlines the interpretive framework we established for the analysis of the interview data. Initial analysis suggests that students have difficulty understanding lower division math and physics courses because of the following reasons; 1) the pedagogical approach is inadequate for properly integrating and reinforcing the material, and 2) student perceptions and beliefs about the disciplines conflict with the goals of integration.


The ability to effectively integrate physics and calculus knowledge and skills into engineering is essential for engineering students. Many engineering faculty report that students do not adequately transfer knowledge from required physics and math courses and are not able to successfully integrate and use these skills in their courses. As part of a grant funded by the General Electric (GE) fund1, faculty at the University of California at Berkeley implemented several reforms aimed at improving the integration between physics, math, and engineering courses. The reform efforts focused on using computer learning technologies as a mechanism to integrate these curricula and to emphasize collaborative learning, small group work, and solving “real life” problems.

In part, the GE grant reform efforts built on previous work done under the Synthesis Coalition 2. As an NSF funded engineering education coalition, Synthesis projects focused on reforming the undergraduate engineering curriculum to better meet the new ABET criteria. Some of the Synthesis projects included the creation of hands-on design and dissection courses 3, 4, the “Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2001, American Society for Engineering Education”

Terada, Y., & Sirivedhin, P., & McMartin, F., & Agogino, A., & McKenna, A. (2001, June), A Framework For Interpreting Students' Perceptions Of An Integrated Curriculum Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9285

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