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Coordinating Laboratory Courses Across Engineering And Science Curricula

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Assessment Issues II

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.342.1 - 9.342.19



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Paper Authors

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Kenneth Cox

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Janice Bordeaux

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David Caprette

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Beth Beason

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Ann Saterbak

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

Session 3431

Coordinating Laboratory Courses Across Engineering and Science Curricula Ann Saterbak,1 Beth Beason,2 Kenneth Cox,3 Janice Bordeaux,4 and David Caprette2 1 Department of Bioengineering, 2Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, 3 Department of Chemical Engineering, 4College of Engineering Rice University, Houston TX 77005


An emphasis on discipline-specific content in laboratories in higher education can lead engineering and science students to perceive an experience in one course as irrelevant to work in other disciplines, and often even to subsequent course work within the same discipline. This compartmentalized approach compromises the progressive advancement of laboratory skills and acquisition of problem-solving capabilities. In order to address this issue, instructors for laboratory courses in Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, Physics, Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Chemistry, and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Rice University have met regularly to discuss how to develop scientifically literate graduates who build upon prior laboratory experience as students advance through their programs. Discussions have led to several cross-disciplinary initiatives.

Twenty common teaching/learning objectives that transcend the discipline-specific goals of individual courses, departments, and majors were identified. Major categories of teaching objectives include: basic laboratory skills, communication and record keeping, maturity and responsibility, context, and integration and application of knowledge. Examples of teaching objectives include “the ability to measure and report uncertain quantities with appropriate precision” and “the ability to write effectively in appropriate style and depth.” Next, all instructors analyzed the emphasis on each of the 20 core teaching objectives in their laboratory courses. To measure student progress toward the teaching objectives, competency standards were developed. This coordinated effort has enabled instructors to target explicit shifts in emphasis from more basic to refined skills as students move through a sequence of laboratory courses.

Student self-evaluations and instructor evaluations have been developed from the core teaching objectives and have been implemented during the 2002-2004 academic years. This collaboration and the resulting assessment tools have enhanced existing outcome assessment methods that are contributing to ABET accredited degree programs at Rice University.

One key benefit of this effort has been the increased communication among the instructors for the existing laboratory courses. Cooperation among laboratory instructors has led to the development of a plan for continuous adaptation and change, aimed at coordinating laboratory courses in the science and engineering departments. Efforts to date have not required the addition of new courses or major changes to existing courses; thus, the costs for this type of

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright  2004, American Society of Engineering Education

Cox, K., & Bordeaux, J., & Caprette, D., & Beason, B., & Saterbak, A. (2004, June), Coordinating Laboratory Courses Across Engineering And Science Curricula Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13928

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