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Collaboration in Assessment and Individual Validation for the 'Digital Native'

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

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Paper Authors


Nathaniel P. Sheehan United States Military Academy Orcid 16x16

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Nathaniel Sheehan is a Captain in the United States Army and an Instructor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at the United States Military Academy. He is a 2010 graduate of the United States Military Academy with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering and a 2013 Graduate from the University of Arkansas - Fayetteville with an M.S. in Engineering. He teaches Physical and Chemical Treatment, Environmental Science, and Environmental Engineering Technologies.

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Jeffrey A. Starke United States Military Academy

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COL (Ret) Jeff Starke served as a Military Intelligence officer with command and staff experiences at the battalion, brigade, joint task force and combatant command levels. His most recent operational experience was as a strategic planning at the United States Central Command in support of Operation Inherent Resolve (actions against ISIS). Academically, COL Starke specializes in environmental engineering with research and teaching interests in drinking water, public health, and microbial-mediated processes to include renewable energy resources. COL Starke taught senior-level design courses in Physical and Chemical Processes, Biological Treatment Processes, and Solid and Hazardous Waste Technologies. COL Starke has published several peer reviewed research articles and has presented his research at national and international conferences. He maintains a focus on the scholarship of teaching and learning in engineering education. COL Starke is a registered Professional Engineer (Delaware), member of several professional associations, and is a member of the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors (NCEES).

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David C. Zgonc United States Military Academy

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Major Zgonc was a recent instructor at the United States Military Academy at West Point where he taught introductory environmental engineering and environmental chemistry classes. Major Zgonc is a 2005 graduate of the United States Military Academy and received his Master of Science degree in civil and environmental engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2014.

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Collaborative problem solving is a valuable skill encouraged in many engineering classrooms. This collaborative problem solving is an ABET requirement as well as a characteristic of the National Academy of Engineering’s “Engineer of 2020”. Course grades, however, are assigned individually, and the institution, which bears the ethical responsibility to validate baseline competence in the engineering profession, uses these grades to confer degrees to individuals and not groups. By observation and anecdote, “digital natives” (people who have lived their entire lives with easy access to information technology) approach learning and the propriety of knowledge differently than previous generations. To the digital native, “individual work” may mean that an assignment is submitted individually but its preparation can be collaborative. Upon submission, the instructor wrestles with validating a student’s individual understanding of course material while still encouraging synergistic peer-learning and the use of digital technology both in and out of the classroom. How can the framework of engineering courses change to meet how digital natives interact with information, maintain the integrity of the educational assessment process, and foster appreciation for individual ethical responsibility in the engineering profession? In a 3-year longitudinal study, the authors examined student performance and experimented with alternate assessment models in an introductory environmental engineering course for juniors with multi-disciplinary enrollment. This longitudinal study was designed to indicate better assessment and academic validation of digital natives while enhancing valuable peer-learning. Individual and course-wide grades as well as student feedback are used to assess student performance. Comparison of course-end comprehensive exam results (assumed to demonstrate individual material mastery) were compared with term grades (which will be influenced by collaboration on out-of-class assignments) using a Mastery of Material Indicator (MMI). Our study indicates that the traditional course assessment model still requires more maturation to provide targeted student learning feedback but a qualitative analysis establishes the digital natives respond favorably to an assessment model that deliberately emphasizes individual feedback both in terms of grades and instructor comments.

Sheehan, N. P., & Starke, J. A., & Zgonc, D. C. (2018, June), Collaboration in Assessment and Individual Validation for the 'Digital Native' Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30200

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