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Educating the Whole Engineer: Transforming an Introductory Engineering Survey Course

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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

First-year Programs Division Technical Session 9: Focus on Student Learning, Lifelong Learning, and the Whole Student

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.569.1 - 26.569.14



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Paper Authors


Julianne D. Vernon University of Michigan

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Julianne Vernon is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan, the College of Engineering, researching and assessing the redesign of the first year engineering experience. She received her bachelors of engineering in chemical engineering from the City College of New York and her doctorate degree at University of Florida in Environmental Engineer. She has experience developing international and national research experience for STEM majors. Her interests include course development to increase engage learning for first year engineers.

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Lorelle A Meadows Michigan Technological University

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Dr. Lorelle A. Meadows is Dean of the Pavlis Honors College at Michigan Technological University.

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Stacie Edington University of Michigan

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Stacie Edington is the Honors and Engagement Program Officer within the University of Michigan, College of Engineering

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Educating the Whole Engineer: Transforming an Introductory Engineering Survey CourseTraditional engineering education has focused on the delivery of knowledge as facts,information, descriptions, or skills that are transmitted to students through the classroomexperience. As time has progressed and the field has developed, engineering educational systemshave moved towards delivering more and more information to our students in this “banking”model (depositing information without question or critique) at the expense of the development ofthe cognitive capacity for applying this knowledge to make judgments. Because engineers arecontinuously called upon to make judgments related to problems in complex systems, it iscritical that we engage students in “self-authorship”: the development of an internal voice thatprovides students with the capacity to define their beliefs, identities and social relationships,guided by their own visions and responsible for their own experiences and decisions. To addressthis need, we proposed a modification to an elective first year survey course. This changereflects an initial effort to educate the “Whole Engineer” and to begin to transform theeducational environment of the college by emphasizing engaged and reflective learningexperiences for engineering students. Our vision was to advance the curriculum by intentionallyproviding students with greater opportunity to explore their identities, values and goals, and thebroad educational opportunities provided to them through the unique learning environments at[our institution].To accomplish this vision, we: 1) revised the first year course schedule from 2 large lectures to amixture of delivery mechanisms that include facilitated discussions of 20 students or less; 2)engaged trained peer facilitators as discussion leaders; 3) developed a curriculum in support ofself-authorship via identity awareness; and 4) assessed learning outcomes associated with self-authorship for students enrolled in the course as compared to students outside the course.The assessment was conducted using a modified self-authorship survey (Pizzolato, 2007) and anintegrative learning self-assessment instrument (Peet et al., 2011). Measures of these instrumentsinclude respondent capacities for: 1) autonomous action; 2) identifying personal strengths andchallenges; 3) identifying personal values and beliefs; 4) working across social differences; 5)exploring personal backgrounds, social identities, and perspectives; and, 6) working withpassions, interests, and sources of curiosity. The surveys were administered at the beginning ofthe Fall 2014 term to students enrolled in the course (n=264) as well as a control group (n=376)and will be readministered at the end of the semester.In this paper, we will describe the course structure and content, describe the role and value of thepeer facilitators in the course, and share initial findings of the assessment.ReferencesPeet, M., Lonn, S., Gurin, P., Boyer, K. P., Matney, M., Marra, T., et al. (2011). Fostering Integrative Knowledge through ePortfolios. International Journal of ePortfolio, 1(1), 11–31.Pizzolato, J. E. (2007). Assessing self-authorship. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2007(109), 31–42. doi:10.1002/tl.263

Vernon, J. D., & Meadows, L. A., & Edington, S. (2015, June), Educating the Whole Engineer: Transforming an Introductory Engineering Survey Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23907

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