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Developing “Critical Thinking Skills” in Graduate Engineering Programs

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Engineering Management Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Engineering Management

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.507.1 - 26.507.21



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Paper Authors


Shekar Viswanathan National University

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Dr. Viswanathan is a Professor at the Department of Applied Engineering at National University, California. Dr. Viswanathan is an educator, researcher and administrator with more than twenty-five years of industrial and academic experience encompassing engineering and environmental consulting, research and development, and technology development. Career experience includes teaching at the University level, conducting fundamental research, and developing continuing educational courses.

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Ben D Radhakrishnan National University

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Prof. Ben D Radhakrishnan is the Lead Faculty for MS Sustainability Management Program in School of Engineering and Computing at National University, San Diego, CA. He develops and teaches Engineering and Sustainability Management graduate level courses. Ben has conducted Sustainability workshops in Los Angeles (Army) and San Diego (SDGE). His special interests and research include promoting Leadership in Sustainability Practices, energy management of Data Centers and to establish Sustainable strategies for enterprises. He spent part of his 2011 and 2012 summers as an Affiliate Researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, focusing on the energy efficiency of IT Equipment in a Data Centers, and continues this work as a Consultant.

Prof. Radhakrishnan has presented papers in conferences in Lima, Peru, Florianopolis, Brazil, Pondicherry, India, and Indianapolis, IN – all topics related to Sustainability. His most current research topic includes Resilient Sustainable Urbanization and 'gamification' in teaching Sustainability.

Prof. Radhakrishnan got his first Master’s, M.Tech, from the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, India. He also has MS from SUNY Buffalo, NY, M.B.A, and Sustainable Business Practices Certification from UCSD. Ben’s hobbies include Photography & Videography, travelling and hiking.

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Developing “Critical Thinking Skills” in Graduate Engineering Program“Critical Thinking Skills” from an engineering context can be defined as the graduate attributedeveloped through a structured process of applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluatingdata/information. The metacognitive ability involving perception, critique, judgment, anddecision making, allows students to orchestrate and self-regulate their own learning strategiesand those abilities encompassed in the term ‘critical thinking.’ It is an important skill thataccrediting bodies and engineering employers consider as a must for engineering graduates.However, the process of achieving critical thinking skills is not always well laid out and /ordeveloped. Although a number of models have been developed in this topic by many academics,developing “critical thinking skills” can be a long and arduous process. In particular, thedevelopment of higher education program level critical thinking skills require detailed courselevel planning, structured assignments, critical analysis of case studies, student centric learning,and guided design using tools such as simulation and gaming, communication exercises, andlaboratory experiments. Research suggests that the development of any skill is best facilitated bypractice and not by demonstration. Students acquire skills most effectively through practice andfeedback. Relying solely on teaching approaches such as problem based learning are unlikely tohelp students to develop critical thinking skills. In addition, emphasis should also be given to theassessment and evaluation of critical thinking skills.This paper provides a critical review of the Master of Science in Engineering Management andSustainability Management programs, both of which were designed to incorporate “criticalthinking skills” as a major focus. In addition, the paper will illustrate examples of structuredassignments and novel exercises that were developed and implemented to promote “criticalthinking skills.” In addition, special rubrics that were developed to measure “critical thinkingskills” will be illustrated.

Viswanathan, S., & Radhakrishnan, B. D. (2015, June), Developing “Critical Thinking Skills” in Graduate Engineering Programs Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23822

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