June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Design in Engineering Education
Learning Assistants (LA’s) are undergraduate peer educators who participate in weekly pedagogy seminars and work alongside faculty instructors in active-learning based undergraduate courses. While LA programs were initially developed for science and math courses , many LA programs support LAs in a wide range of disciplines. This model has been shown to be highly effective at increasing science content learning for students in LA-supported courses [1-2] and may support sustainability of course reforms.
Engineering design courses share some key features of classrooms where LA’s have been particularly effective (e.g. interactive, open-ended problems); however, engineering design courses also have their own unique features (e.g. extended, multi-week projects and integration of knowledge from a variety of STEM disciplines). Therefore, we cannot simply import the canonical discipline-general LA seminar for peer educators in design courses.
This paper describes a pilot adaptation of the LA program for engineering design courses that we have developed at [Institution]. All enrolled LA’s assist in 14 separate sections of [Institution]’s engineering design course for first-year undergraduate students . In addition to having 10-12 contact hours per week, LAs also participate in a 3-credit seminar. Our seminar integrates topics from the discipline-general LA pedagogy course (cognitive science of learning, facilitation of classroom discourse, collaboration, metacognition) with topics especially relevant to engineering design (design reviews, design thinking, expert-novice practices in engineering design, engineering epistemology, teamwork and equity). In our pilot year, we enrolled 14 students.
While course goals aligned with the goals of LA programs nationally, our course design team also articulated several values which guided the design of our course: a) helping LAs reframe their role as supporting growth rather than evaluation , b) valuing a broad set of metrics of success from day one, c) celebrating that different students bring in different expertise, and disrupting overly simplistic expertise/novice dichotomies, d) acknowledging that we all have different starting points and valuing a plurality of goals, e) helping our students track their own progress  through reflecting on concrete representations of their thinking .
This paper will describe the embodiment of these goals by highlighting several key features of the course. Through open-ended whole-class discussions, students were given opportunities to share in each others’ joys and struggles. We also provided students regular opportunities to reflect and receive feedback on their work. Using a set of holistic rubrics, we supported growth on a broad set of skills and facilitated iterative improvement .
Drawing from methods from design-based research , we will use several data sources to assess the extent to which the embodiment of our values helped us meet our goals: 1) pre- and post- survey data 2) semi-structured pre- and post- interviews with LAs 3) instructor reflections and field notes and 4) LA coursework. Finally, we will describe challenges and identify areas where we were not meeting our goals and describe some of the aspects of the course that we plan to revise in the next iteration.
 Otero, V., Pollock, S., & Finkelstein, N. (2010). A physics department’s role in preparing physics teachers: The Colorado learning assistant model.American Journal of Physics, 78(11), 1218-1224.
 Goertzen, R. M., Brewe, E., Kramer, L. H., Wells, L., & Jones, D. (2011). Moving toward change: Institutionalizing reform through implementation of the Learning Assistant model and Open Source Tutorials. Physical Review Special Topics-Physics Education Research, 7(2), 020105.
 AUTHORS & COLLABORATORS (2015, June), Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Seattle, Washington.
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 Dounas-Frazer, D. R., & Reinholz, D. L. (2015). Attending to lifelong learning skills through guided reflection in a physics class. American Journal of Physics, 83(10), 881-891.
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 Brown, A. L. (1992). Design experiments: Theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions in classroom settings. The journal of the learning sciences, 2(2), 141-178.
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