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An Investigation of Bioengineering Undergraduate Curriculum: Methods for a Comprehensive Analysis

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Developments in BME Pedagogy and Assessment

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Page Count


Page Numbers

22.189.1 - 22.189.12



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Paper Authors


Alyssa Catherine Taylor University of Washington

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Dr. Alyssa C. Taylor is a Lecturer in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington. She received a B.S. in Biological Systems Engineering at The University of California, Davis and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia. Dr. Taylor's teaching activities are focused on developing and teaching new core introductory courses and labs for bioengineering undergraduates, as well as coordinating the Capstone Design sequence for the BIOEN department at the University of Washington. Her scientific research interests are in the fields of vascular and tissue engineering. Dr. Taylor currently pursues educational research activities, with the ultimate goal of optimizing bioengineering curriculum design and student learning outcomes.

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Kelli Jayn Nichols University of Washington, Seattle, Department of Bioengineering

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Kelli Jayn Nichols has served as Lead Academic Counselor in the Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington, since before the inception of the B.S. program in 2001. In addition to counseling undergraduates, she focuses on curricular and other program improvements. Current interests include career pathways for B.S. graduates and effective ethics education in undergraduate bioengineering curricula.

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Laura Wright University of Washington

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Laura Wright is a Program Support Supervisor in the Department of Bioengineering, where she focuses on curriculum and program improvements. Her professional interests include project management, survey methodology, and user-centered design. She received a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in 2007.

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Christopher Neils University of Washington

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An Investigation of Bioengineering Undergraduate Curriculum: Methods for a Comprehensive Analysis The field of bioengineering is dynamic and constantly evolving. As such, its undergraduateprograms must also evolve and adapt, in order to provide students with the knowledge and skillsnecessary to embark on successful careers and to contribute to the advancement of the currentstate of bioengineering. To this end, at our institution we have conducted an extensiveexamination of our undergraduate bioengineering program. The goal of this study was to utilizea variety of assessment techniques in order to enhance our understanding of the strengths andweaknesses of our curriculum and to identify any aspects of the curriculum which could beoptimized to better meet the needs of the modern bioengineering undergraduate student.In this paper, we present our comprehensive approach to assessing the effectiveness of thecurrent curriculum at [name of institution]. We describe the multiple methods of self-analysisimplemented over the course of our study, including acquisition and evaluation of feedback fromdepartmental faculty, academic staff, industry, alumni, and students enrolled in the program. Inaddition to describing formative feedback techniques and their findings, we also discuss howresults from those assessments were directly translated into curriculum revision actions by ourdepartment. One key method of program evaluation consisted of annual undergraduate programfeedback sessions facilitated by staff from the [name of institution] [name of instructionaldevelopment center]. During separate feedback sessions conducted with both junior and seniorundergraduates, students first completed individual worksheets and then met in small groups todiscuss and record responses to particular questions regarding undergraduate program issuessuch as departmental strengths and recommended changes to the curriculum. After the smallgroup sessions, students also discussed their responses as a large group and proceedings werelater summarized by the facilitator. As one portion of the study presented here, anonymousstudent feedback obtained from sessions from the past eight years (2003 – 2010) was analyzed.The results of this analysis allowed us to gain insight into the strengths and challenges of ourprogram from the perspective of the students and clearly identified potential areas for optimizingtheir educational experience. For instance, at the end of their undergraduate education, althoughseniors indicated that they were overall well-satisfied with the bioengineering program (3.8 ±0.4, on a 5 point scale), 71% of the group session reports cited the desire for track-based electiveoptions based on a thrust area, in order to increase specificity of their knowledge. Based on thisfeedback, we plan to implement a requirement for focus area (i.e. Diagnostics andInstrumentation) specialization in the new bioengineering curriculum.Preliminary effectiveness of additional proposed changes in the bioengineering curriculum, asindicated from the responses from industry, clinicians, and students, serves as an initialindication that our integration of results obtained from the multiple means of assessment allowsfor critical analysis and well-informed revision. Although future assessment of the success ofcurriculum changes implemented in our department will be needed as the new courses are phasedin (starting Jan. 2011), we propose that the methods of program analysis described in this workmay be useful for other departments similarly motivated to evaluate their own curriculum.

Taylor, A. C., & Nichols, K. J., & Wright, L., & Neils, C. (2011, June), An Investigation of Bioengineering Undergraduate Curriculum: Methods for a Comprehensive Analysis Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17470

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