Asee peer logo

Combining In-class Design Problems and EFFECTs to Stimulate Critical Thinking Skills

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Activities and Assessment for “Awkward ABET Outcomes”

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.303.1 - 23.303.14



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Nathan Huynh University of South Carolina


Juan M Caicedo University of South Carolina

visit author page

Dr. Caicedo is currently an associate professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of South Carolina. He obtained his doctorate degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 2003. Dr. Caicedo’s research interests include engineering education, numerical and experimental research in the areas of structural dynamics, model updating, structural health monitoring, earthquake engineering and structural control. Dr. Caicedo is member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, the Society of Experimental Mechanics and the American Society of Engineering Educators.

visit author page

author page

Charles E. Pierce University of South Carolina

author page

Jason W Gantt University of South Carolina

Download Paper |


Combining In-class Design Problems and EFFECTs to Stimulate Critical Thinking SkillsAbstractThis study investigates the effectiveness of using in-class design problems that are combinedwith key elements from the Environments For Fostering Effective Critical Thinking (EFFECTs)pedagogical approach to stimulate and improve critical thinking skills of civil engineeringstudents. The study is carried out in an undergraduate Transportation Engineering course. Inthis course, the instructor schedules an in-class design problem (ICDP) at the conclusion of eachof the seven chapters/topics where students work in groups to solve the design problems. EachICDP is challenging and requires students to use most, if not all, of the concepts discussed inclass to solve. It is aimed to reinforce the concepts students learned in class and in doing thehomework.In this study, we explore how to use the ICDP to not only help students learn the class material,but also improve their critical thinking skills. To accomplish this, we use some key elementsfrom the EFFECTs pedagogy to get students to think and guesstimate an answer to a designproblem and to reflect on how the learned material helped them answer the design problem. Thespecific structure of the class is as follows. During the first lecture of each of the seven topics,the instructor provides a driving question that requires students to make an educated guess of theanswer to a design problem and to list the parameters they considered in estimating theiranswers. For example, one of the driving questions is “estimate the theoretical stopping distanceof a Honda civic with and without antilock brakes from 60 mi/hr on good, dry, level pavement.”The students are given time to answer the question on their own and then additional time todiscuss the answer with classmates. Each student records his/her answer as well as the group’sanswer. This is followed by lectures and homework in a series of subsequent classes. In thehomework, students are asked how the topics covered in class helped them answer the drivingquestion. Finally, the driving question is provided in the form of an ICDP. In solving the ICDP,students discuss the problem among themselves within the group and across groups. While theydo this, the instructor provides assistance as needed. At the end of the ICDP, students are askedto state how their final answers have changed from their initial answers and why, as a mean ofencouraging metacognition. Students’ responses to the homework and ICDP questions areassessed to determine the effectiveness of this approach to improve critical thinking skills.Those results are reported in this paper.

Huynh, N., & Caicedo, J. M., & Pierce, C. E., & Gantt, J. W. (2013, June), Combining In-class Design Problems and EFFECTs to Stimulate Critical Thinking Skills Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19317

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015