June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
The authors are experimenting with implementation of a tiered mentoring model across undergraduate-level and graduate-level design courses, using concurrently-taught courses focused around designing steel building structures as the contextual application. The undergraduate course is a senior-level design course in which students learn the fundamentals of designing steel structures. It is structured around an authentic semester-long team-based design project in which student design teams develop the structural plans for a real building based on an architectural concept. A series of intermediate project deliverables are sequenced throughout the semester to ensure that the undergraduate students receive ample feedback and scaffolding to develop meaningful design solutions. Student teams present their designs to a panel of practicing engineers at two different times during the semester to receive external feedback on their designs. The graduate course parallels much of the undergraduate course, but delves more in the realms of theory and advanced applications. While it is a design course, the class has historically relied on discrete assigned problems to provide students the occasion to gain design experiences, rather than engaging with a project. The instructors of both courses share a goal of desiring to deepen student learning, which would be evidenced by improved sophistication in the course deliverables (final project submissions in the undergraduate course, and design problems occurring throughout the graduate course). To accomplish this shared goal, the authors hypothesized that by developing a tiered mentoring model that engages both the undergraduate and graduate students, student learning outcomes in both courses could be better achieved. To test their hypothesis, the authors began by mapping student learning outcomes to the respective course deliverables (i.e., final project and design problems) which would later be assessed and compared against student performance from prior semesters. Next, the authors devised a plan in which students in the graduate-level course would be embedded into the undergraduate course as graduate mentors. The class sizes were such that this resulted in approximately one graduate student being embedded into each design team of five undergraduate students. The graduate students were responsible for serving as an external review checkpoint for the undergraduate students before the latter submitted each of the intermediate project deliverables, and were graded in part on the quality of their feedback to the undergraduate students. Measured differences in student learning outcomes for both the undergraduate and graduate students are presented and discussed. Methods and recommendations for generalizing the approach taken by the authors to other course pairs and sequences are presented.
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