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Explicit Teaching Of Critical Thinking In “Introduction To Engineering”

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Goal Specific First-Year Courses

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.611.1 - 14.611.21



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Paper Authors


James Lewis University of Louisville

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James E. Lewis, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals in the J. B. Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville. His research interests include parallel and distributed computer systems,
cryptography, engineering education, undergraduate retention and technology (Tablet PCs) used in the classroom.

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Jeffrey Hieb University of Louisville

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Jeffrey L. Hieb, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at the University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky. His research interests include cyber security for process control systems, secure operating systems, Tablet PCs in education, and engineering education.

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David Wheatley University of Louisville

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David Wheatley, Sr. is a Ph.D., P.E. Chemical Engineer with 28 years industrial experience with the DuPont Company, where he held positions in process/product research, plant technical support and process design and implementation. Retired from DuPont, he is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at the University of Louisville, Speed School of Engineering. His current academic interests include the areas of chemical process control and engineering education.

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

Explicit Teaching of Critical Thinking in ENGR 100 - n


In evaluating how the School of Engineering will meet the requirements of a recently launched, University wide, quality enhancement program (QEP), engineering faculty were questioned about the role of critical thinking in their teaching and in the profession of engineering. There was unanimous agreement that critical thinking is an important requirement to be successful in most engineering courses. However, there was general agreement that critical thinking was not an explicit component in course lectures, syllabi, or objectives. The assumption was that students understood critical thinking and its role in the practice of engineering. Subsequent interviews with incoming engineering students found a limited understanding of critical thinking. In an effort to help students become better critical thinkers and appreciate the importance of its practice throughout their education and careers, critical thinking and engineering reasoning are now explicit parts (ENGR 100) course.

-Elder model of critical thinking is used to define and operationalize critical thinking. Critical thinking is now both an

is dedicated entirely to the topic of critical thinking, and is organized around the Paul-Elder model. Following this presentation, students are given some critical thinking exercises. The course also includes a number of case studies where students explore engineering as an activity in greater detail. Using the language of the Paul-Elder model, the critical thinking or engineering reasoning in these case studies is made explicit to students during case study discussions. Students also participate in the analysis of the case studies, through team based exercises and assignments. These assignments include implicit critical thinking components. The critical thinking portion of the assignment helps reinforce the importance of engineering reasoning to the students. By making critical thinking an explicit outcome of the course, students will be better prepared to strengthen and enrich their critical thinking skills in future (upper level) courses.

To measure the outcome of the explicit critical thinking instruction in the course, students are given a pre-assessment and a post-assessment of their understanding of critical thinking and their ability to think critically. The pre-assessment occurs before any class meetings that are dedicated to the Paul-Elder Model and critical thinking. The post-assessment follows a critical thinking homework assignment and some case study discussions, allowing students time to improve and grow in their critical thought processes. It is expected that after introducing the model to the students and making the language and process clear to them, their post-assessment will show an improvement in their critical thinking. In the future, as students progress through the engineering program, periodic critical thinking assessments as part of the QEP will be done

Lewis, J., & Hieb, J., & Wheatley, D. (2009, June), Explicit Teaching Of Critical Thinking In “Introduction To Engineering” Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5513

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