Asee peer logo

Designing a Curriculum that Helps Students Create Connected Narratives in Electrical Engineering

Download Paper |


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

Electrical and Computer Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Sara Kaye Jones Iowa State University

visit author page

Sara Jones recently completed her MS in Electrical Engineering at Iowa State University, where she also completed her BS in Electrical Engineering.

visit author page


Mani Mina Iowa State University

visit author page

Mani Mina is with the department of Industrial Design and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Iowa State University. He has been working on better understanding of students' learning and aspects of technological and engineering philosophy and literacy. In particular how such literacy and competency are reflected in curricular and student activities. His interests also include Design and Engineering, the human side of engineering, new ways of teaching engineering in particular Electromagnetism and other classes that are mathematically driven. His research and activities also include on avenues to connect Product Design and Engineering Education in a synergetic way.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Abstract This paper aims to identify and discuss several conceptual narrative arcs throughout a traditional electrical engineering curriculum that can be used to encourage students to practice deep conceptual learning and the higher stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy, therefore improving their retention, application, and creative problem solving in electrical engineering.

The lack of conceptual connections between courses in traditional electrical engineering curriculums leads to courses that are segmented and disconnected, therefore producing graduates who have segmented and disconnected views of electrical engineering. Concepts in one area of electrical engineering should reinforce concepts in another area - they are inexorably interconnected[1]. Helping students to create a connected narrative of concepts throughout the curriculum facilitates deeper understanding of topics, increased critical thinking, and engineers who can approach problems from multiple angles. These qualities are increasingly important for graduates who will become professional engineers, as the change in technology and mindset move at a much greater pace in industry than academia[2]. Most teaching methods in a traditional electrical engineering curriculum haven’t changed since the 1970s - with a preference for theoretical knowledge rather than practical application[3]. The gatekeeper of knowledge paradigm is upheld, in which the professor has the knowledge and the students are the empty receptacles into which they can pour their information and expertise[2]. Courses revolve around lectures and lengthy problem sets. The professor tells the information to the students during lecture, often emphasizing the “correct” equations - flying through PowerPoint slides with no time for the students to absorb the material, much less formulate and ask questions. Lengthy problem sets are assigned as homework, comprised of complicated scenarios in which the only thing truly being evaluated is how well students can identify the “correct” equations and do algebra. This often results in students being able to memorize and imitate a large number of equations, but quickly forget them once the course is over. This is because they have only entered the first stage of Bloom’s Taxonomy: remembering[4].

In contrast, deep conceptual learning focuses on understanding the underlying meaning of the material, connecting new ideas to previous knowledge, recognizing relationships between parts, and relating concepts to everyday experiences[5]. These are associated with the higher stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy. In order for students to engage in deep conceptual learning, they need to address questions such as why certain equations are used, how and why they were derived, and how these equations relate to each other and the larger concepts. However, significantly less emphasis is placed on these topics throughout a traditional undergraduate electrical engineering curriculum. Exploring these questions throughout the curriculum will help students create conceptual narrative arcs that are connected, giving them a more holistic view of electrical engineering and creating more capable engineers.

References 1. Sheppard, Sheri D., et al. Educating engineers: Designing for the future of the field. Vol. 2. Jossey-Bass, 2008. 2. Moore, Daniel J., and David R. Voltmer. "Curriculum for an engineering renaissance." IEEE Transactions on Education 46.4 (2003): 452-455. 3. Terman, Frederick E. "A brief history of electrical engineering education." Proceedings of the IEEE 64.9 (1976): 1399-1407. 4. Anderson, Lorin W., et al. "A taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy." New York. Longman Publishing. Artz, AF, & Armour-Thomas, E.(1992). Development of a cognitive-metacognitive framework for protocol analysis of mathematical problem solving in small groups. Cognition and Instruction 9.2 (2001): 137-175. 5. Chin, C., & Brown, D. E. (2000). Learning in Science: A Comparison of Deep and Surface Approaches. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(2), 109-138.

Jones, S. K., & Mina, M. (2018, June), Designing a Curriculum that Helps Students Create Connected Narratives in Electrical Engineering Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30277

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2018 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015