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Board # 4 : Methods and Preliminary Findings for Developing and Assessing Engineering Students’ Cognitive Flexibility in the Domain of Sustainable Design

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count

5

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/27846

Download Count

31

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Paper Authors

biography

Elise Barrella James Madison University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-0020-2035

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Dr. Elise Barrella is an Assistant Professor and Founding Faculty Member of the Department of Engineering at Wake Forest University. She is passionate about curriculum development, scholarship and student mentoring on transportation systems, sustainability, and engineering design. Dr. Barrella completed her Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at Georgia Tech where she conducted research in transportation and sustainability as part of the Infrastructure Research Group (IRG). In addition to the Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, Dr. Barrella holds a Master of City and Regional Planning (Transportation) from Georgia Institute of Technology and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Bucknell University. Dr. Barrella has investigated best practices in engineering education since 2003 (at Bucknell University) and began collaborating on sustainable engineering design research while at Georgia Tech. Prior to joining the WFU faculty, she led the junior capstone design sequence at James Madison University, was the inaugural director of the NAE Grand Challenges Program at JMU, and developed first-year coursework.

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Mary Katherine Watson The Citadel Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-1718-5825

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Dr. Mary Katherine Watson is currently an Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at The Citadel. Prior to joining the faculty at The Citadel, Dr. Watson earned her PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering from The Georgia Institute of Technology. She also has BS and MS degrees in Biosystems Engineering from Clemson University. Dr. Watson’s research interests are in the areas of engineering education and biological waste treatment.

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Olga Pierrakos James Madison University

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Olga Pierrakos is a Founding Faculty and Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering at James Madison University. She is currently a Program Director at the National Science Foundation in the Division of Undergraduate Education. Her expertise and interests focus on diversity and inclusion, engineer identity, PBL, innovative learning-centered pedagogies, assessment of student learning, engineering design, capstone design, etc. She also conducts research in cardiovascular fluid mechanics and sustainable energy technologies. She holds a BS and MS in Engineering Mechanics and a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Virginia Tech.

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Abstract

Many engineering problems can be viewed as “sustainability problems”, and thus problem-solving requires knowledge from multiple domains (technical, environmental, economic, and social). Engineering students should be educated about sustainability and be trained to apply sustainability concepts in design in order to produce better products, processes, infrastructure, etc. Students gain knowledge in relevant domains from a variety of undergraduate classes (both engineering and non-engineering), yet they have difficulty connecting knowledge from across classes or domains to fully analyze problems and evaluate sustainability trade-offs. Operating under this premise, the first goal of our research is to help students apply (or supplement) their knowledge relating to sustainable design dimensions (i.e., technical, environmental, economic, social) to complex, engineering problems, such as the ones they encounter during capstone design and will encounter in the real-world. The second goal is to improve assessment of students’ abilities to apply sustainable engineering design concepts across different problems or design challenges. We hypothesize that with guided practice and feedback, engineering undergraduate students will become better at drawing on diverse knowledge domains and integrating it when they are faced with new, complex problems.

Cognitive flexibility theory (CFT) and adaptive expertise provide constructs for assessing students’ knowledge transfer and connection building that is needed to adequately address sustainability problems. The primary objective of this work is to use CFT and adaptive expertise criteria to guide both learning and assessment of sustainable design. Our paper will present progress and preliminary findings in two areas: (1) Identifying appropriate measures of knowledge transfer/cognitive flexibility/adaptive expertise that apply to engineering design tasks and (2) Developing and adapting instructional materials and assessments to measure and help students improve ability to transfer knowledge to/across sustainable design problems. Specifically, we will describe our efforts to refine measures of cognitive flexibility and adaptive expertise by measuring improved cognitive functions (e.g., study of flexibility/performance using an electroencephalogram or EEG), an approach which is underdeveloped in engineering education research, particularly for complex problem-solving like sustainable design. We will also present progress on new or adapted assessment tools that focus on direct measures of student domain knowledge in different contexts (e.g., automated scoring of concept maps) and correct application of knowledge (e.g., cross-disciplinary sustainable design rubrics). We are focusing on practical assessment tools that are transferable to other institutions and across engineering departments, and also grounded in evidence (e.g., characterizing brain waves measured with an EEG to triangulate with measurements from learning assessments).

Barrella, E., & Watson, M. K., & Pierrakos, O. (2017, June), Board # 4 : Methods and Preliminary Findings for Developing and Assessing Engineering Students’ Cognitive Flexibility in the Domain of Sustainable Design Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/27846

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