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Assessing the Impact of Game Based Pedagogy on the Development of Communication Skills for Engineers

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Assessment and Outcomes: ERM Roundtable

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.250.1 - 26.250.13



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Paper Authors

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Katharine Mary Eichelman


Renee M Clark University of Pittsburgh

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Renee Clark serves as the Director of Assessment for the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Industrial Engineering, where she also completed her post-doctoral studies. Her research has primarily focused on the application of data analysis techniques to engineering education research studies as well as industrial accidents. She has over 20 years of experience in various engineering, IT, and data analysis positions within academia and industry, including ten years of manufacturing experience at Delphi Automotive.

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Cheryl A Bodnar University of Pittsburgh

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Cheryl A. Bodnar, Ph.D., CTDP is an Assistant Professor (Teaching Track) in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. She obtained her certification as a Training and Development Professional (CTDP) from the Canadian Society for Training and Development (CSTD) in 2010, providing her with a solid background in instructional design, facilitation and evaluation.
Dr. Bodnar’s research interests relate to the incorporation of active learning techniques in undergraduate classes (problem based learning, games and simulations, etc.) as well as integration of innovation and entrepreneurship into the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering as well as broader engineering curriculum. In addition, she is actively engaged in the development of a variety of informal science education approaches with the goal of exciting and teaching K-12 students about regenerative medicine and its potential.

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Assessing the Impact of Game Based Pedagogy on the Development of Communication Skills for EngineersCommunication is a vital component of education for any discipline, including engineering. Inthe past, engineers’ lack of communication among themselves as well as with colleagues fromdifferent fields has resulted in devastating outcomes, such as the BP Oil spill in 2010. A lack ofcommunication between the executives, engineers, and the Bureau of Ocean EnergyManagement Regulation and Enforcement resulted in the loss of eleven lives and approximatelytwo hundred million gallons of crude being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico. Our study hasinvestigated the impact that game-based learning, a form of active learning shown to increase astudent’s interest and motivation, has on the development of oral and written communicationskills within a sophomore level chemical engineering class. Game-based learning incorporatesgame design elements, such as instantaneous feedback and scaffolding techniques, into non-game contexts in order to push students to the edge of their capabilities.In the spring 2014 semester, two sections of this chemical engineering course were taught. Onesection used game-based pedagogy, and the control section used other active learning strategies,such as think-pair share, group discussion and case studies. However, the same communicationcurriculum was delivered to both sections. Final written reports and video infomercialsproduced as part of a semester long design project were evaluated by two analysts. The resultswere then compared to determine the impact of game-based learning on students’ achievement incommunication skills, both written and oral. The written report was evaluated using the WrittenCommunication VALUE rubric, which was developed by faculty experts sponsored by theAssociation of American Colleges and Universities. This VALUE rubric evaluates a writtenreport based upon five categories- context of and purpose for writing, content development,genre and disciplinary conventions, sources and evidence, and the control of syntax andmechanics. The video infomercial was evaluated using the Elevator Pitch Evaluation Rubric,created by faculty at Rowan University for a sophomore-level design course. This rubricconsiders content, organization, style, and delivery. Both the written and oral assignments weredouble coded to ensure the quality of the assessment, and an inter-rater reliability measure wascalculated.This study also examined whether students’ perception of their development of communicationskills correlated with their performance on the oral and written assignments. To assess this, aselection of questions from the National Survey of Student Engagement pertaining to perceptionsof communications skill development was compared to the scores achieved on the written andoral communications assignments.In a comparison of written reports from the games versus non-games sections of the course, themean overall score was higher for the games-based teams (n=13) compared to the non-games-based teams (n=14), although not significantly. This was likely influenced by the small samplesize. This trend also existed with the mean scores for each dimension of the rubric. The samewas generally true for the oral (infomercial) results. The games-based teams scored higher thanthe non-games-based teams on four of the five rubric dimensions, although not significantly.

Eichelman, K. M., & Clark, R. M., & Bodnar, C. A. (2015, June), Assessing the Impact of Game Based Pedagogy on the Development of Communication Skills for Engineers Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23590

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