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Conveying Instructor Expectations In A Project Centered Course

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Improving Communication Skills in ME

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.324.1 - 8.324.14



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Paper Authors

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Theresa Jones

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2166

Conveying Instructor Expectations in a Project-centered Course

Theresa L. Jones The University of Texas at Austin


Instructor expectations of student behaviors in a teacher-centered course are different from the instructor expectations in a student-centered course. Many students successful in traditional lecture-based courses are frustrated and anxious when working on open-ended projects because they don’t understand what is expected of them. Faculty teaching courses with open-ended projects may be equally frustrated that their students do not seem to be correctly perceiving their expectations despite their repetitive efforts to convey these expectations. This study used both quantitative and qualitative methods to understand both sides - the instructor’s expectations of students and the students’ perceptions of the instructor’s expectations -in an open-ended, student- centered classroom. Four students and the instructor were interviewed throughout an upper- division undergraduate mechanical engineering course. This paper describes the research methods and preliminary results from this study. With the increasing integration of project-centered practices in the engineering classroom, the results of this study are anticipated to be beneficial to other instructors who are trying to transition students from the well-defined expectations of many teacher-centered classrooms to the open-ended expectations of a project-centered environment.


When I was a sophomore taking engineering physics, the following equations were carved into my desk:

Engineering = Physics + Common Sense Physics = Engineering – Common Sense

While I’ll avoid comment on the second equation, I believe the first equation describes the challenge of contemporary undergraduate engineering education. Engineering students must learn the necessary scientific content that supports their chosen discipline. But in order to effectively and successfully perform as engineers, students need to graduate with some “common sense” when it comes to applying the scientific content they have studied. But how do engineering educators develop this necessary common sense in their students? Since the 1970’s, capstone “Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Jones, T. (2003, June), Conveying Instructor Expectations In A Project Centered Course Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12478

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