Asee peer logo

An Integrated Approach To Teaching Engineering Courses

Download Paper |


1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.85.1 - 3.85.5



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Peter W. de Graaf

author page

Michael J. Walker

author page

Thad Welch

Download Paper |

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

Session 1232

An Integrated Approach to Teaching Engineering Courses

Peter W. de Graaf, Cameron H. G. Wright, Michael J. Walker Department of Electrical Engineering U.S. Air Force Academy, CO

Thad B. Welch Department of Electrical Engineering U.S. Naval Academy, MD


Many undergraduate engineering students have difficulty understanding the connections between the different engineering courses they are required to take. Too many of them focus on learning just the details of a specific course without any consideration of how the concepts fit with those of other courses. The integrated approach to teaching engineering involves a “systems view” to the curriculum. In this approach, one or more systems are presented to the students early in their engineering program. Throughout their courses, the students are reminded of where they are in the system. A specific example is discussed of how this approach is being used as a test case with five courses in the electrical engineering curriculum at the United States Air Force Academy. The resulting improvement in student performance is also discussed.


The typical undergraduate engineering student sees most of his or her courses as a collection of facts and formulas. Most students focus on memorizing these facts and formulas and how to use them to solve specific problems. The focus of their efforts tends to be the problems presented through examples in assigned readings, homework, and laboratory exercises. They concentrate on learning very specific applications of the concepts and ideas presented in the course. This approach to learning gives the students a very narrow view of the material presented in a particular course.

This problem is of particular concern in an environment where the student has a limited amount of time to devote to a particular course. In this case, the student will prioritize the focus of his/her study efforts to concentrate on those areas that seem most likely to appear on an examination. In essence, the students are learning in a vacuum: learning to pass an examination, rather than to understand the broader applications of the material.

The motivation to use the integrated approach described in this paper came from a desire on the part of the authors to improve the understanding of students in senior-level electrical engineering courses. At this level, students should have a rudimentary understanding of how the major concepts presented in an undergraduate engineering curriculum “fit” together. For example, they should see that a fundamental understanding of linear systems is a key to understanding the basics of analog communications.


de Graaf, P. W., & Walker, M. J., & Wright, C., & Welch, T. (1998, June), An Integrated Approach To Teaching Engineering Courses Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/1-2--7199

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 1998 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015