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Enhancing Student Leadership Competencies Through Reflection

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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

Active learning in BME, Session II

Tagged Division

Biomedical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Dianne Grayce Hendricks University of Washington

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Dr. Dianne G. Hendricks is a Lecturer in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington, where she leads the Bioengineering Outreach Initiative, Bioengineering Honors Program, and the Bioengineering Summer Camp in Global Health. She holds a PhD in Genetics from Duke University, and BS in Molecular Biology and BA in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Hendricks’ teaching activities at the University of Washington include courses such as introductory bioengineering, service learning, universal design, tissue and protein engineering labs, bioengineering ethics, leadership, and capstone proposal writing and design. She is committed to enhancing diversity and inclusivity in engineering, and creating opportunities for undergraduate students to engage in K-12 educational outreach. Dr. Hendricks has over a decade of experience leading educational outreach and summer camp programs at both Duke University and the University of Washington.

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Ken Yasuhara University of Washington

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Ken Yasuhara is an instructional consultant and assistant director at the Office for the Advancement of Engineering Teaching & Learning (ET&L) at the University of Washington. He completed an A.B. in computer science at Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. in computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. When he finds the time, he plays with bicycle tools and knitting needles.

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Alyssa Catherine Taylor University of Washington

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Alyssa C. Taylor is a senior lecturer in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington. She received a B.S. in biological systems engineering at the University of California, Davis, and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia. Taylor’s teaching activities are focused on developing and teaching core introductory courses and technical labs for bioengineering undergraduates, as well as coordinating the capstone design sequence for the BIOE Department at the University of Washington. Taylor currently pursues continuous improvement activities through her role as the Undergraduate Program Coordinator, with the goal of optimizing bioengineering curriculum design, student learning outcomes, and the overall program experience for students.

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This paper describes the use of pedagogical approaches using reflection to enhance leadership competencies in two bioengineering courses at [name of institution], building on our previous work-in-progress [1].

Although leadership is an essential professional skill for bioengineering students, many programs do not teach it explicitly, for a variety of reasons, including the challenge of defining leadership in concrete terms and the lack of instructor and student buy-in. Our aim is to make teaching leadership to undergraduates more manageable by documenting our experience using leadership-focused activities in bioengineering courses. These activities leverage a teaching approach whose importance is becoming increasingly recognized in engineering education: reflection [2, 3]. Reflection is often used to promote cognitive development and can help students learn more from projects, internships, and other educational experiences [4]. In this work, our teaching innovation is using reflection to promote understanding and development of leadership as a professional skill. By reflecting on course-related activities through a leadership lens, students appreciate that these experiences are helping them develop leadership skills.

To facilitate reflection on leadership, students in the two featured courses are introduced to the “leadership competencies” identified by Seemiller [5], including ethics, conflict negotiation, and providing/receiving feedback. The competencies provide a common vocabulary that helps students articulate their leadership abilities and goals for further development of leadership skills.

Here, we provide several examples and student assessment of reflection activities to enhance student leadership competencies. The featured reflection activities have been implemented in two bioengineering seminar courses with different learning objectives and student populations. The Bioengineering Honors Seminar is a leadership-focused, discussion-based seminar comprised of senior majors in the departmental honors program at [name of institution]. The collegium seminar, Bioengineering: Advancing Human Health, is for first-year students (bioengineering majors and non-majors) and provides exposure to different research areas in bioengineering through guest speakers and a team project. The full paper will include brief descriptions of reflection activities, including specific prompts used for each activity, allowing instructors to try these activities in their own courses.

Assessment includes student self-reported data obtained by surveys examining 1) how reflection contributed to identification and development of students’ individual leadership competencies, 2) the impact of reflection on students’ ability to utilize and refine their individual leadership strengths, and 3) student feedback about the effectiveness of reflection activities. Additional supporting data will be provided by end-of-course student evaluations, instructor observations, and excerpts of student work. Students reported that reflective exercises helped them develop leadership competencies, and increased their understanding of what leadership means in general and in the field of bioengineering.


1. [Anonymized for blind review] 2. Ambrose, S. A. (2013). Undergraduate engineering curriculum: The ultimate design challenge. The Bridge: Linking Engineering and Society, 43(2). 3. Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How Learning Works. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 4. Kaplan, M., Silver, N., LaVaque-Manty, D., & Meizlish, D. (Eds.). (2013). Using Metacognition and Reflection to Improve Student Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. 5. Seemiller, C. (2014). The Student Leadership Competencies Guidebook: Designing Intentional Leadership Learning and Development. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Hendricks, D. G., & Yasuhara, K., & Taylor, A. C. (2018, June), Enhancing Student Leadership Competencies Through Reflection Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30428

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