June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.74.1 - 13.74.16
A New Tool to Assess the Value of Active and Problem-Based Learning in Enhancing Engineering Student Self-Efficacy Abstract:
Self-efficacy, or belief in one’s own ability to learn, is a key predictor of success for engineering students. I have developed and evaluated a scenario-based, task-specific on-line assessment instrument, the Self-Efficacy Assessment Survey (SEAS), and evaluated its use for pre- and post-assessment of students in a first year Introduction to Engineering course. Through a combination of the SEAS and other quantitative and qualitative assessment tools, incorporation of problem-based and active learning activities are found to enhance student self-belief in their ability to learn engineering-related material and accomplish certain engineering-related tasks. Use of scenario-based questions to measure student confidence levels (as has been done in the SEAS) provides a unique mechanism to gain insight into student self-efficacy, though questions must be carefully designed to limit the impact of extraneous factors on student responses.
Engineering coursework has historically suffered from a perception of being rather uninteresting, mathematically weighty, and dominated by memorization of equations and rote theories. This perception has resulted in difficulties in recruiting underrepresented groups to the engineering field (and retaining them), and in motivating students and maintaining high retention rates in general, especially through the first two years of engineering education. This is especially true when course activities are not designed to enhance self-efficacy (defined as a student’s ability to believe that he or she can play a leading role in building his or her own learning gains)1. In fact, belief in self has been shown to be the single greatest predictor of student success, especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), at all grade levels. Only after a strong belief in one’s intelligence has been established do other factors become significant.2
Pedagogical development efforts for engineering coursework has in many cases lagged behind developments in other educational areas, and has not taken advantage of our increased understanding of student learning styles and of new techniques that are being employed to enhance student engagement in the humanities and in some natural sciences. However, recently (within the past 10 years) growing importance has been assigned to designing and implementing courses and programs that embody a more active and holistic approach to engineering education.
In addition to active learning approaches, it is equally important to develop methods for students to assess their own learning and, through survey and interview tools, to evaluate the impact of these courses and projects in enhancing student confidence in their ability to learn. The basis of evaluation is the degree to which students feel these courses enhance their views of lifelong learning, including providing them with the tools and self-efficacy to teach themselves, as well as the degree to which students understand how specific coursework contributes to a comprehensive approach to engineering problem solving. Hence, improved assessment, including self-assessment, better enables courses and programs to be optimized to meet STEM learning objectives.
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