June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Biological & Agricultural
13.107.1 - 13.107.13
A Spiral Curriculum Approach to the implementation of Instrumentation in Biological Systems Engineering
The Engineering Education and Biological Systems Engineering departments at Virginia Tech have identified a need for a spiral themed curriculum in undergraduate engineering education. Approval for carrying out studies in implementing the spiral curriculum was approved in the Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) department in November 2007 by the university’s Internal Review Board allowing the investigators to conduct their studies by gaining access to and analyzing student responses, course materials, and student participation for the efficacy of the implementation of the spiral curriculum.
The first phase of an assignment module was implemented in a sophomore level course during the Fall semester of 2007. The module involved introducing data acquisition and control concepts to students through lecture sessions, assignments, and hands-on experience with setting up a circuit, a data acquisition unit, and utilization of the LabVIEW software in acquiring data. Student understanding of the concepts was evaluated by subjecting the students to five pre- and post-test survey questions, four of which were set up on a 5-point Likert scale. Results of a paired t-test analysis performed on Likert scale responses of 14 students indicated a significant change between pre-and post-test for two of the four questions answered. Student responses in the post-test quiz and survey indicated a similarity in terms of knowledge gained through the module, and indicated a better understanding of terms like precision, accuracy, and concepts of controlling a system. The first phase of implementation will be followed by a second phase involving control of a system during the Spring semester of 2007.
The twentieth century psychologist, Jerome Bruner, proposed the concept of the spiral curriculum. Bruner advocates that a curriculum as it develops should revisit the basic ideas repeatedly, building upon them until the student has grasped the full formal apparatus that goes with them3. According to Harden and Stamper11, a spiral themed curriculum achieves its purpose by means of deepening of a topic through subsequent re-visitations, rather than merely its repetition.
Evidences of implementation of a spiral curriculum approach in engineering and other fields of study have been reported. Curriculum design5, implementation8, and evaluation7 of the spiral curriculum on the first-year chemical engineering curriculum have been reported by department of Chemical Engineering in Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA. The efficacy of a mathematical programming language Zeno, which facilitates Bruner’s concepts of spiral-based curriculum, has also been reported by the Graduate School of Education in The Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland6.
An NSF sponsored collaboration between the departments of Engineering Education (EngE) and the bioprocess wing of the Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) at Virginia Tech was launched in September 2004. The first project was awarded in Fall of 2003 and became a planning project
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