June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Design in Engineering Education
22.508.1 - 22.508.14
Do students gather information to inform design decisions? Development of an authentic assessment tool of information gathering skills in first-year engineering studentsInformation gathering is a very important aspect of the design process, one that is usedcontinuously throughout the project to make informed design decisions. This study reports thedevelopment of an authentic instrument used to assess skills related to information gathering infirst-year engineering students. Existing assessment tools, such as the scenario-based Self-Knowledge Inventory of Lifelong Learning (SKILLS), developed by Conti & Fellenz, or theSelf-Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS), developed by Guglielmino, were consideredfor this project. While these have the advantage of being very easy to administer and analyze,one significant disadvantage is that they are self-reported and primarily test perceptions insteadof authentic demonstration of information gathering skills. For this study, we have developed acoding rubric to qualitatively evaluate written memo assignments given to first-year engineeringstudents as part of their semester design project. The rubric identifies the variety, appropriatenessand documentation of sources used. The rubric also identifies overall strengths and weaknessesincluding the efficacy of information gathering, and of making an argument with informationfrom credible, cited sources. In a sample of randomly selected memos (from a pool of 263),approximately 50 % of the sources cited could not be located due to poor documentation. Over90% of the sources used were electronic sources, half of which were either commercial websitesor personal blogs. These results suggest that students do not seek information from a variety ofquality sources and that documentation is a significant weakness. Further results from this studywill be used to inform design instruction in future first-year engineering courses.
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