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Course Strategy: Low Stakes Assessment Approach to Engineering Economy instruction using Revised Bloom Taxonomy

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Engineering Economy Course Strategy Panel Session

Tagged Division

Engineering Economy

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Paper Authors


Michael B. O'Connor P.E. New York University Orcid 16x16

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Michael O'Connor, Retired Professional Civil Engineer (Maryland and California), M.ASCE, is a member of the ASCE Committee on Developing Leaders, History and Heritage, Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge (CEBoK), and Engineering Grades. Michael has been a practicing Civil Engineer with over 50 years of engineering, construction, and project management experience split equally between the public and private sectors. Programs ranged from the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit district's 1990's expansions in the East Bay and SFO Airport at three billion to the New Starts program for the Federal Transit Administration with over a hundred projects and $85 billion in construction value. At the latter, he also acted as source selection board chairman and program COTR for $200 plus million in task order contracts for engineering services.
Working for the third-largest transit agency in the United States, the Los Angeles County MTA, Michael managed bus vehicle engineering for $1 billion in new acquisitions and post-delivery maintenance support for 2300 vehicles with some of the most complex technology (natural gas engines and embedded systems) in the US transit industry in the 1990s.
Michael also has extensive experience as an instructor at New York University (five years), Howard University (four years), and California State University- San Francisco (ten years).

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Course Strategy: Low Stakes Assessment Approach to Engineering Economy instruction using revised Bloom Taxonomy • Instructional Environment (department, student audience, school size, etc.) o The course is an undergraduate offering during the third year by the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Howard University in Washington, D.C. The only pre-requisite to the class is probability and statistics. The class is offered only one semester every year, and its size varies from 15 to 25 students per semester. The BS in Civil engineering (BSCE) program has a population average of 75 students. Howard’s enrollment is approximately 9,700 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. • Delivery Method (lecture, hybrid, online, etc.) o This instructor has taught the class for three years. The class started as a straight lecture delivery and then gradually migrated to a hybrid delivery in the Fall of 2019 and to fully online in the Spring of 2020 with the Covid-19 pandemic. This course uses the Howard University learning management system (LMS) "Blackboard" (Bb), although the results and lessons learned apply to other LMS’. • Approach to Instruction and Technology (spreadsheets, case studies, tables/equations/calculators, etc.) o The class uses a problem-based approach to instruction and relies heavily on using spreadsheets as the primary engineering tool to solve complex problems in engineering economy. Problems are complex and open-ended, capable of several interpretations, and require the student to sort thru relevant and irrelevant, and sometimes conflicting information. • Topics Covered o The course covers ten subject areas: socio-economic context; civil engineering context, probability, and uncertainty cost classification and taxonomies, costing methods, standard costing, and variance analysis, real and nominal value, the theory of production and break-even costs, contractor total cost function -experience curves model, power factor modeling, economic equivalence and the time value of money. • Assessment (grade elements, paper/online/mixed), Rationale for the approach, and o There are four grading elements-Assignments (10), one capstone assignment, class quizzes (25), and twelve Weekly journal submissions for a total of 48 student semester deliverables in the class. The total points for all work is 3,000, with an “A” grade being 2,750 points or higher. All assessment work and grading is done online. o Both the quizzes and assignments offered multiple attempts with scoring based upon the highest attempt or average as appropriate for the material and progression of the class. Assessment work done at the end of the class did not offer multiple attempts. Practice sets were available as well. o Assessments for both quizzes and assignments use (algorithmically) calculated formula questions with typically 250 answer sets, usually delivered as randomized question blocks. • Lessons Learned o The assessment structure was reviewed and redesigned using the revised Bloom taxonomy concepts (2001). The core concept was to realize Bloom level 3-Apply (in familiar and unfamiliar contexts) was the breakpoint for achieving a “B” grade and higher above. The “B” grade could solve problems in unfamiliar contexts. The “C” grade could only solve problems in familiar contexts. The “D” grades could only solve at the schematic level. o The course moved entirely online with the COVID pandemic, and the issue of academic integrity became paramount. The use of smartphone technology by students to take photos of test questions and text them to others made the availability of test questions to all students an issue. The integrity question was addressed again by Bloom taxonomy to design “A” grade questions and using multiple question types. Specifically, in the form of Bloom level, 4, and 5 type questions with large answer sets. “A” block questions also required spreadsheet solution file submissions as well as essay responses on the student’s solution approach. These were very effective in maintaining assessment integrity in an online environment.

O'Connor, M. B. (2021, July), Course Strategy: Low Stakes Assessment Approach to Engineering Economy instruction using Revised Bloom Taxonomy Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36854

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