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Designing a Course for Peer Educators in Undergraduate Engineering Design Courses

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

The Best in DEED

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Gina M Quan University of Maryland, College Park

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Gina Quan is a doctoral candidate in Physics Education Research at the University of Maryland, College Park. She graduated in 2012 with a B.A. in Physics from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research interests include understanding community and identity formation, unpacking students’ relationships to design, and cultivating institutional change. Ms. Quan is also a founding member of the Access Network, a research-practice community dedicated to fostering supportive communities in undergraduate physics departments.

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Chandra Anne Turpen University of Maryland, College Park

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Chandra Turpen is a Research Assistant Professor in the Physics Education Research Group at the University of Maryland, College Park"s Department of Physics. She completed her PhD in Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder specializing in Physics Education Research. Chandra’s work involves designing and researching contexts for learning within higher education. In her research, Chandra draws from the perspectives of anthropology, cultural psychology, and the learning sciences. Through in-situ studies of classroom and institutional practice, Chandra focuses on the role of culture in science learning and educational change. Chandra pursues projects that have high potential for leveraging sustainable change in undergraduate STEM programs and makes these struggles for change a direct focus of her research efforts.

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Ayush Gupta University of Maryland, College Park

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Ayush Gupta is Assistant Research Professor in Physics and Keystone Instructor in the A. J. Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland. Broadly speaking he is interested in modeling learning and reasoning processes. In particular, he is attracted to fine-grained analysis of video data both from a micro-genetic learning analysis methodology (drawing on knowledge in pieces) as well as interaction analysis methodology. He has been working on how learners' emotions are coupled with their conceptual and epistemological reasoning. He is also interested in developing models of the dynamics of categorizations (ontologies) underlying students' reasoning in physics. Lately, he has been interested in engineering design thinking, how engineering students come to understand and practice design.

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Emilia Dewi Tanu University of Maryland, College Park

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Emilia Tanu is a recent graduate of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering program at the University of Maryland, College Park. She has collaborated with members of UMD's Physics Education and Engineering Education Research Groups, and researchers at Olin College of Engineering. While at UMD, she was the co-chair of the Women in Engineering Student Advisory Board and a student ambassador for the Clark School of Engineering. Emilia is currently working in industry, and hopes to eventually pursue graduate studies in Engineering Education. Her research interests include emotion in design and empathetic classroom practices.

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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 [1], 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 [3]. 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 [4], 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 [5] through reflecting on concrete representations of their thinking [6].

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 [5].

Drawing from methods from design-based research [7], 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.

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] AUTHORS & COLLABORATORS (2015, June), Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Seattle, Washington.

[4] Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.

[5] 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.

[6] Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, computers, and powerful ideas. Basic Books, Inc..

[7] 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.

Quan, G. M., & Turpen, C. A., & Gupta, A., & Tanu, E. D. (2017, June), Designing a Course for Peer Educators in Undergraduate Engineering Design Courses Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28124

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