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Build As You Go: An Approach to Completing Laboratory Reports

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Division Experimentation and Lab-Oriented Studies - Pedagogy of Lab Courses

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Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

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Paper Authors


Arash Mahboobin University of Pittsburgh

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Dr. Mahboobin is a research assistant professor at the department of Bioengineering, Swanson School of Engineering. His research interests include computational and experimental human movement biomechanics, bio-signal processing, and engineering education. Specific areas of biomechanics and bio-signal processing research include developing muscle-actuated forward dynamic simulations of gait (normal and pathological), analysis and modeling of human postural control, and time-varying signals and systems. Engineering education research includes curriculum and laboratory development of biomechanics and bio-signal processing concepts.

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Renee M. Clark University of Pittsburgh

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Renee M. Clark serves as research assistant professor focusing on assessment and evaluation within the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and its Engineering Education Research Center (EERC), where her interests focus on active and experiential learning. She has 25 years of experience as an engineer and analyst, having worked most recently for Walgreens and General Motors/Delphi Automotive in the areas of data analysis, IT, and manufacturing. She received her PhD in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and her MS in Mechanical Engineering from Case Western while working for Delphi. She completed her postdoctoral studies in engineering education at the University of Pittsburgh.

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In the fall 2015 offering of a junior-level bioengineering signals and systems laboratory, students were encouraged to submit periodic progress reports for projects they were working on in order to receive feedback and guidance from the instructor. We observed significant improvements in written project report scores upon using these progress reports as well as upon providing additional timely feedback between projects. These progress reports prompted each group to explain their proposed solution, provide justification for it, display graphs, ask questions and raise potential concerns, and in general report on project progress. Progress reports were intended as a feedback and communication mechanism between groups and instructor; they were not mandatory or graded. The potential relationship between students’ engagement with the progress reports and achievement on the projects, and the observation that the progress reports became a build-as-you-go tool for some groups, prompting them to write snippets of the final report as they progressed with their analysis, has lead to the implementation of this tool during the fall 2016 semester. Similar to fall 2015, progress reports are intended for receiving feedback from the instructor but additionally they will be used as a stepping-stone to completing final reports. Students are encouraged to write snippets of their final report as they advance through various parts of a project and incorporate feedback/suggestions received by the instructor to fine-tune each snippet. The goal is to have the final report go through multiple revisions before it is ready for final submission. Teaching a process approach to writing—such as build-as-you-go—can support students in becoming professionally competent writers; such an approach often prompts for writing in draft stages and responds to or intervenes with each draft as required, demonstrating to students that writing should take place over time, in part to gain better control over the process. Written progress reports are one means to demonstrate to students that writing is a process that occurs in stages. Our progress reports (and project final report) require critical thinking and writing, in which students must draw and justify conclusions and arguments over time, elucidate assumptions, synthesize information, and present questions regarding uncertain items. Our hypothesis is that our build-as-you-go approach will lead to even greater achievement and performance in the fall 2016 on the open-ended laboratory project reports. A statistical comparison of the project scores will be done, and students’ reflective prompts will be qualitatively analyzed for insight into their problem solving processes. In addition, assessments of the students’ application of instructor feedback and the build-as-you-go approach, and their problem solving strategies will be gathered via semi-structured interview and included as part of the overall evaluation of this instructional approach.

Mahboobin, A., & Clark, R. M. (2017, June), Build As You Go: An Approach to Completing Laboratory Reports Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27982

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