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Evaluating Student Confidence In Engineering Design, Teamwork And Communication

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Understanding Engineering Design

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.592.1 - 10.592.11



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Paper Authors

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Penny Hirsch

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Ann McKenna

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Evaluating Student Confidence in Engineering Design, Teamwork and Communication

Ann F. McKenna1, Penny Hirsch2

Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science1/The Writing Program2, Northwestern University


Many researchers have focused on the role of confidence and motivation on learning and have suggested that students be encouraged to engage in reflection about the role of their self- perceptions in achievement. In this paper we explore how students’ confidence levels change during our freshman engineering design program. During the 2003-2004 academic year we implemented a survey designed to measure students’ confidence in design problem-solving abilities and associated teamwork and communication skills in Northwestern University’s first year Engineering Design and Communication (EDC) course. Analyses of the survey data show significant gains in students’ confidence to apply specific design, communication, and teamwork skills. Results from our study provide valuable information about our students, and one perspective for evaluating the effectiveness of design-focused learning environments.


Many factors need to be considered when creating and evaluating learning environments that support design problem-solving. Learning environments include inanimate features such as the classroom setting, course materials like textbooks, multimedia documents or other learning tools, and specific assignments that need to be completed. To inform the design of these features one could refer to instructional frameworks such as the How People Learn (HPL) framework to guide effective design of course activities1. For example, the HPL framework suggests that a learning environment be assessment-centered so that student understanding is monitored throughout the course, and appropriate and timely feedback is given to correct any misunderstanding. Using this HPL principle one could design assessment tools or course assignments to achieve this goal.

In addition to these inanimate features, learning environments also include people, specifically students and instructors. This humanistic element introduces additional factors to be considered when designing and evaluating learning environments. For example, students and instructors bring certain beliefs and expectations about the course and subject matter. These beliefs and expectations influence the approach one takes to learning and teaching. Motivation also plays an essential role in how much time and effort one devotes to learning and teaching the subject matter. These humanistic elements offer an additional perspective for evaluating the effectiveness of courses. In this paper, we focus on one humanistic element, namely students’

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Hirsch, P., & McKenna, A. (2005, June), Evaluating Student Confidence In Engineering Design, Teamwork And Communication Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15314

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