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Do Students Gather Information to Inform Design Decisions? Assessment with an Authentic Design Task in First-Year Engineering

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Design in Freshman and Sophomore Courses

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.508.1 - 22.508.14

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Paper Authors


Ruth Wertz P.E. Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Ruth E. H. Wertz is a graduate student in Engineering Education at Purdue University. She is a Professional Engineer in the State of Indiana, and holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Civil Engineering from Trine University and Purdue University.

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Meagan C. Ross Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Meagan Ross is passionate about providing awareness of engineering to K-12 educators, enabling them to actively and confidently influence students to become the next generation of world changing engineers. Through her consulting business, Meagan regularly develops and facilitates workshops on STEM careers for K-12 educators, parents, and students, with the personal objective to help close the gender gap in engineering.

Meagan Ross is a Ph.D. student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University, and is a recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. She received a B.S. in Computer Science from Texas Woman’s University, and a M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Texas Tech University. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, she worked as a microelectromechanical-systems (MEMS) engineer for Texas Instruments.

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Michael Fosmire Purdue University, West Lafayette


Monica E. Cardella Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Monica E. Cardella is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education and is the Co-Director of Assessment Research for the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE) at Purdue University. Dr. Cardella earned a B.Sc. in Mathematics from the University of Puget Sound and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering at the University of Washington. At the University of Washington she worked with the Center for Engineering Learning and Teaching (CELT) and the LIFE Center (Learning in Informal and Formal Environments). She was a CASEE Postdoctoral Engineering Education Researcher at the Center for Design Research at Stanford before beginning her appointment at Purdue. Her research interests include: learning in informal and out-of-school time settings, pre-college engineering education, design thinking, mathematical thinking, and assessment research.

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Senay Purzer Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Şenay Purzer is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Education and is the Co-Director of Assessment Research for the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE) at Purdue University. Purzer has received her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Science Education at Arizona State University. She has a B.S. degree in Physics Education and a B.S.E. in Engineering. She has journal publications on instrument development, teacher professional development, and K-12 engineering education. Her creative research focuses on design problem-solving, collaborative learning, and assessment research.

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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.

Wertz, R., & Ross, M. C., & Fosmire, M., & Cardella, M. E., & Purzer, S. (2011, June), Do Students Gather Information to Inform Design Decisions? Assessment with an Authentic Design Task in First-Year Engineering Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC.

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