June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Electrical and Computer
The breadth of topics emerging under the umbrella of Electrical and Computer Engineering appears to be growing at an exponential rate. For example, we now consider advanced materials fabrication techniques and applications, heterogeneous systems, neurological processing, and artificial intelligence all to be related to the field. Complicating this state of affairs further is the requirement for our undergraduates to still attain a level of proficiency in core electrical engineering concepts such as circuit analysis, signal processing, E&M fields, and embedded computing. Furthermore, it is important that the students understand the relationships between these topics and to view them as an entire spectrum, and not as individual courses to be dispensed with at the end of a semester. To address these concerns we have undergone a major curriculum update in Electrical and Computer Engineering at UXX. We have moved virtually all of our undergraduate core material to a studio format of instruction and directed our efforts to breadth-first instruction. Traditional courses in "Circuits", "Electronics", and "Signals and Systems" have evolved into a sequence of "Fundamentals" courses in which material from each of the three prior segments is taught each semester at increasing levels of depth. Embedded computing is also in a studio format and is taught from the perspective of how it is a component of an overall system. "E&M Fields" is also in a studio format and relies heavily on experimental techniques learned in "Fundamentals" and "Embedded Computing". Such sweeping changes also necessitate a reevaluation of how we assess student learning and concept retention. There are well-known concept inventory tests available, and they have been used in the past with varying degrees of success. However, these tests are "single-topic" in nature and do little to assess how well students visualize concepts from across the breadth of the curriculum. For example, there are concept inventories in "Electronics" but they do little to provide meaningful feedback about how well students understand the relationship between those concepts and how a circuit design might affect the Fourier series amplitudes of its output. Concept Inventories for "E&M Fields" are similarly restrictive and no inventories exist for Embedded Computing. In addition, existing inventories do little to assess how well students may construct tests to perform experimental verification of a concept and how well they can determine the veracity of such tests. In this paper, we present examples of assessment criteria for concept inventories suitable for testing how well students assimilate concepts in a breadth first fashion. We envision such inventories as assessing not only mastery of a particular topic, but also how well students understand the interrelated nature of the entire curriculum. We propose techniques such that student scores provide meaningful feedback on both breadth and depth; i.e. a score for each. We also present mechanisms such that instructors may evaluate the experiential side of the curriculum and how well students can bridge theoretical concepts with measured laboratory results.
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