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Active Assessment In Capstone Design Using A System Approach

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Assessment and Evaluation in Engineering Education I

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.168.1 - 12.168.24



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Paper Authors


Kelley Racicot Washington State University

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Kelley Racicot is a graduate student in Teaching and Learning at Washington State University. She is employed at the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology at WSU.

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Charles Pezeshki Washington State University

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Chuck Pezeshki is a professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, and Director of the Industrial Design Clinic.

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

Active Assessment in Engineering Design Using a Systems Approach


A major challenge for faculty is how to develop a “culture of evidence” in the classroom that supports student-centered formative learning and aligns with program and accreditation goals. Another challenge is the development of assessment tools that lighten, rather than add to, faculty workload. In this paper, we analyze a systems approach for gathering evidence centered on the development of group artifacts. Specifically, online project management (PM) and knowledge management (KM) resources are purposefully developed by students at the intersection of working, learning, and assessment. The KM and PM archives are assessed using a multi-method approach, with three goals in mind: 1) ease of implementation, 2) real-time documentation of improvements, and 3) alignment of course assessments with program and institutional goals.

1. Introduction

Faculty are being asked by legislators, accrediting agencies, institutions, employers and the public to provide more and better evidence of students’ academic achievement. At the same time, they are asked to provide evidence of higher-order thinking and professional skills, which are complex and difficult to measure. This poses a paradox for faculty who want to implement innovative team- and project-based pedagogies. The lack of assessment tools, incentives, and support structures in higher education can discourage faculty from adopting active, student- centered learning approaches, such as collaborative, problem-based, team-based, project-based, inquiry-based, inductive and experiential learning [1,2,3,4]. Faced with more difficult-to- measure learning outcomes, a major challenge for faculty is how to reconcile what stakeholders want with what faculty can reasonably do. At the same time, faculty are evaluated on the rigorousness of their methods and their contributions to theory and practice beyond the local context.

To solve this problem by measuring every variable using every available technique isn’t practical or useful. In order to avoid what Gloria Rogers, Associate Executive Director of Professional Services for ABET, Inc.— the nationally-recognized accreditor for college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology (ABET)— calls “death by assessment,” alternative assessments are needed that: 1) target specific educational questions, 2) improve organization, learning and assessment, together as an interconnected whole, and 3) reduce faculty workload [5]. Complex learning environments do not lend themselves to traditional positivist methodologies, where a single variable is isolated and controlled for, and the results repeated and generalized. For example, it is impossible (and counterproductive) to isolate and control for interpersonal communication (ABET outcome g) from the ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams (ABET outcome d) without affecting the variable you want to measure in the first place.

In response, the engineering education community is calling for more rigorous methods in education that use a systems approach. ABET, for example, suggests that it is important to use a “multi-method/multi source approach to maximize the validity and reduce the bias of any one

Racicot, K., & Pezeshki, C. (2007, June), Active Assessment In Capstone Design Using A System Approach Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1731

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