June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.237.1 - 14.237.21
Assessing Design and Reflective Practice in Capstone Engineering Design Courses
Engineering practitioners in the twenty-first century face complex challenges with social, political, environmental, ethical, and resource-limiting constraints. They work with diverse constituencies to solve rapidly-changing, complex problems. To be productive and responsive in this environment, engineering professionals must create innovative yet practical and responsible solutions that benefit society. As Schön (1983) argues, engineers will need to practice reflection- in-action (learning and adjusting as they perform) as well as reflection-on-action (intermittent analysis of conditions that leads to major advances). As agents of change, they continuously ask questions, make judgments, learn, and choose appropriate actions. Engineers must be competent, reflective practitioners if they are to contribute effectively in a dynamic global environment.
This paper describes a set of fifteen assessments for four areas of performance in capstone engineering design courses: professional development, teamwork, design processes, and solution assets. First, it presents the research foundation and structure for making the assessments useful for both guiding student achievement and measuring achievement in the context of team-based design projects. Next, the activities for each assessment are summarized along with factors for scoring performances. Finally, the paper describes how the assessments prompt students’ reflection on design activities and how student reflections might be used to assess reflective practice occurring in design activities. Assessment instruments are being tested for validity and reliability in a number of capstone design course environments. Additional research is needed to develop and test the measurement of reflective practice.
Successful engineers of the twenty-first century will be markedly different from engineers of the past. Having sound understanding of engineering sciences, successful engineers will also need to be problem solvers and innovators who work effectively in times of rapid change. They will need to be global-minded, socially-responsible, systems-thinkers who adeptly address complex problems having significant human dimensions. [1-4] Engineers will need to perform a variety of roles in the context of their work: analyst, problem solver, designer, researcher, communicator, collaborator, leader, self-grower, achiever, and practitioner.  Important work in a “flat world” will require multidisciplinary teamwork, rapid prototyping, creativity, business savvy, entrepreneurship, and human-centered design. 
The social dimension of engineering will require excellent communication and social skills. Therefore, engineers will need to demonstrate strengths in listening, debate, and negotiation with
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