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Creating a New Engineering Technology Program Using the UbD Approach

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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

ET Administrative Issues

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

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Paper Authors


Nancy K. Sundheim St. Cloud State University

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Nancy K. Sundheim is in the Environmental and Technological Studies Dept. where she developed and is now the director of the Manufacturing Engineering Technology program. Her primary interest area is at the intersection of manufacturing engineering and statistics involving lean, continuous improvement, and quality. She also does research in engineering education applying the principles of continuous improvement to her teaching.

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In an effort to improve teaching, our small group learned and implemented the Understanding by Design (UbD) pedagogy to our courses. Originally this method was developed by Wiggins and McTighe specifically for K-12 instruction. We discovered it was a valuable tool for improving college-level teaching as well. The method advocates first identifying the enduring understandings (foundational concepts) for the course – those concepts you want the students to remember 2-3 years after they complete the course. The second step is to determine how this learning will be assessed. The goal is to measure student understanding of the foundational concepts rather than measuring what is easy, but not necessarily valuable, to measure. The last step is to plan class time, linking all or most topics to these all-important concepts.

The principles of UbD were then adapted to the task of developing a new program in engineering technology. Many hurdles were encountered. The UbD approach gave direction and, in many cases, solid solutions to these hurdles, including creation of program outcomes, curriculum development, selection of textbooks, the development of online labs, novel approaches to linking program content to courses, developing measurable student learning outcomes, and justification of equipment purchases/donations. UbD even assisted in justifying the creation of this new program so that the approval process by the state went far quicker than anticipated.

For example, the needs of an engineering technology program are different than those for an engineering program. This can sometimes make it difficult to find textbooks that have the appropriate perspective. Searching for textbooks in publisher’s websites, and even searching on the web in general, using the course title often did not result in viable options. When the enduring understandings were used instead as search criteria, suitable textbooks were more likely to be found. In one case, this led to the development of a customized textbook.

It is difficult to assess the effectiveness of this approach since there are no graduates of the program yet. However, informal feedback indicates students are being told by industry that they know just what they need to know. This has come through their interaction with local companies on class projects, through internships, and in job interviews. Furthermore, the industry advisory board for the program has been highly supportive of the program and have indicated the content is exactly what they need in the engineering technologists they employ.

We expect to obtain formal assessment after the first graduates enter the profession and we are able to get feedback from the alumni and their supervisors. Surveys have been developed to start gathering more detailed information from intern supervisors.

The adaptation of the UbD pedagogy was crucial to the development of the program and we believe it could be used successfully by others.

Sundheim, N. K. (2018, June), Creating a New Engineering Technology Program Using the UbD Approach Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30232

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