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Enhancing Student Learning through Using and Writing EPSA Scenarios

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Case and Scenario in Engineering Ethics Instruction

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

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Paper Authors


Edwin R. Schmeckpeper P.E. Norwich University

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Prof. Edwin Schmeckpeper, P.E., Ph.D., is the chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Construction Management at Norwich University, the first private school in the United States to offer engineering courses. Norwich University was the model used by Senator Justin Morrill for the land-grant colleges created by the 1862 Morrill Land Grant Act. Prior to joining the faculty at Norwich University, Dr. Schmeckpeper taught at a land-grant college, the University of Idaho, and worked as an engineer in design offices and at construction sites.

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Michael B. Kelley P.E. Norwich University

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B.S.C.E., 1974, Norwich University
M.S.C.E., 1976, (Environmental Engineering), Purdue University
P.E., Commonwealth of Virginia, 1979 to present.
Ph.D., 1996, (Environmental Engineering), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Colonel, US Army (Retired)
15 years of undergraduate teaching experience at the US Military Academy and Norwich University.
Currently an Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, David Crawford School of Engineering, Norwich University.

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Ashley Ater Kranov Washington State University

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Dr. Ashley Ater Kranov is an adjunct associate professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Washington State University.

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Steven W. Beyerlein University of Idaho, Moscow

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Dr. Beyerlein has taught at the University of Idaho for the last 28 years. He is coordinator of the college of engineering inter-disciplinary capstone design course and currently serves as the Department Chair for Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Beyerlein has been active in research projects involving engine testing, engine heat release modeling, design of curricula for active , design pedagogy, and assessment of professional skills.

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Jay Patrick McCormack Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Jay McCormack is an associate professor in the mechanical engineering department at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Dr. McCormack received his PhD in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2003. His areas of research interest include engineering education, computational design, and manufacturing.

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Engineering programs often contain a senior level “Professional Issues” course to cover topics, such as ethics, which are related to the professional practice of engineering. These courses commonly utilize case studies focusing on ethics as the basis for student discussions. Measuring the student learning resulting from the case study process is often very subjective, and is difficult to quantify.

The Engineering Professional Skills Assessment (EPSA) was created as a direct method for eliciting and measuring professional skills, such as ethics, which are critical for all engineers. EPSA is a performance assessment consisting of: 1) a 1-2 page scenario about an interdisciplinary contemporary engineering problem intended to prompt discussion among a group of 5-6 students; 2) a 30 to 45- minute discussion period where students are asked to address a series of standardized questions about the scenario; and 3) an analytical rubric, which provides a consistent and standardized means to evaluate the students’ discussion.

The research team that developed EPSA has recently completed a four-year validity study funded by the National Science Foundation. As part of this validation study, the team of researchers applied EPSA to test groups of students at three different universities. As a result of the work done on the validity study, the team members introduced other faculty members to EPSA, who then have independently started to utilize aspects of the EPSA method in their programs.

This paper describes how the faculty members responsible for a “Professional Issues” course for engineering students have been using the EPSA scenarios. The course instructors have found that the interdisciplinary EPSA scenarios generated more enthusiastic and higher level discussion than case studies that focused solely on ethics. For example, one group of professors selected to use the EPSA “Alternative Energy” scenario due to their University’s recent acquisition of a bio-fuels energy plant. This scenario includes economic, political, regulatory, ethical, and environmental considerations, including such issues as effects of regulations on utility prices, reliability of renewable energy, global warming, and the international markets for energy.

In addition to using the EPSA scenarios, interest was expressed in having the students write their own scenarios for use in the class. The faculty involved with the “Professional Issues” course felt the process of writing, and discussing EPSA scenarios would both enhance the students’ interest in the scenario subject, and lead to a more mature understanding of the issues raised in the scenario. The EPSA includes an assessment tool for crafting timely, relevant, and engaging scenarios, which was utilized by the students to create their own scenarios.

Several student created scenarios were utilized in the professional issues course, and the results from the using the scenario are discussed. This paper also includes presentation of several EPSA scenarios and the materials required to implement the EPSA method; the scenario assessment tool, discussion prompts, and the EPSA rubric. Finally, the paper addresses how the EPSA method may be utilized at both the classroom and program level.

Schmeckpeper, E. R., & Kelley, M. B., & Ater Kranov, A., & Beyerlein, S. W., & McCormack, J. P. (2016, June), Enhancing Student Learning through Using and Writing EPSA Scenarios Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26711

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