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Assessing A Freshman Engineering Course

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Assessment Issues in 1st-Yr Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.224.1 - 10.224.14



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Paper Authors

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Anita Mahadevan-Jansen

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Christopher Rowe

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Stacy Klein-Gardner

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

Session 3653

Assessing a Freshman Engineering Course

Christopher Rowe, Stacy Klein, Anita Mahadevan-Jansen Vanderbilt University


Assessment is arguably the most difficult activity in an engineering curriculum. An engineering school's first challenge is to align its incoming students with an area of study that appeals to their interests and will allow them to grow academically and ultimately embrace their profession. A secondary challenge is to provide the students with essential problem solving tools in an atmosphere that is engaging while accounting for their diverse educational backgrounds. The assessment tool thus must address these needs. In order to determine the effectiveness of the introductory engineering course, several assessment techniques were used. Initial assessment was performed using a pre-course survey in order to determine pre-conceptions and pre-existing knowledge. Innovative formative assessment used during the course includes using proprietary software permitting real-time, laptop-based student assessment in the classroom. Additional assessment techniques include a common mid-term exam; instructor evaluations for every module; post-module surveys; a post-course survey; and ultimately, student retention numbers.


The freshman year of engineering continues to be one of the most critical components of undergraduate curriculum development for engineering schools. There is an ongoing challenge in developing an introductory engineering course that meets the needs of the school/college as well as the students in an effective manner. A major complaint of students is that there is no formal mechanism that helps students make an informed decision on their choice of major until well into their curriculum. Approximately 40% of the first-year engineering students at Vanderbilt University are unsure of their major upon entering the university. In addition, often parents and students complain of the lack of "real world" engineering in the first year curriculum, which is true of many engineering schools. As a result, the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering has initiated a series of changes that radically affect the freshman engineering curriculum to be more innovative, competitive, and challenging. The remodeled introductory course in engineering satisfies the course goals of fostering early and informed student decision regarding their declared majors, bringing real world engineering problems into the classroom, and anchoring the curriculum in the context of engineering problem solving.

Towards achieving these goals, learning objectives were defined and a model for implementation designed. The learning objectives are (1) to educate the students to apply the problem solving processes essential in solving both design and analytical problems, (2) to enable the students to solve these problems using engineering computing tools while continuing to use the process and (3) to allow them to make educated choices on the use of appropriate tools for the appropriate

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society of Engineering Education

Mahadevan-Jansen, A., & Rowe, C., & Klein-Gardner, S. (2005, June), Assessing A Freshman Engineering Course Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14634

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