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Facilitating Lifelong Learning Skills Through A First Year Engineering Curriculum

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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

Assessment and Curriculum Development

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.619.1 - 14.619.18



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Paper Authors


David Hall Louisiana Tech University

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Dr. David Hall is Program Chair of Mechanical Engineering at Louisiana Tech University. He also holds the James F. Naylor, Jr. Endowed Professorship.

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Stan Cronk Louisiana Tech University

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Dr. Stan Cronk is Lecturer for the Industrial Engineering Program at Louisiana Tech University. His interests are undergraduate engineering education and ergonomics.

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James Nelson Louisiana Tech University

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Dr. James Nelson is the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies at Louisiana Tech University. He is also the Howson Professor of Civil Engineering and Associate Director of Center for Entrepreneurship and Information Technology (CEnIT).

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Patricia Brackin Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Dr. Patricia Brackin is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rose-Hulman University. Her research interests are engineering design and assessment.

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

The Facilitation of Lifelong Learning Skills through a Project- Based Freshman Engineering Curriculum Abstract

Engineering accreditation criteria, as well as the Engineer of 2020 report, list lifelong learning as a critical attribute of future engineers. While exercises can be embedded in engineering curricula that promote independent learning, assessing the level at which lifelong learning has been achieved is difficult. The first year engineering curriculum at Louisiana Tech University provides activities that support development of lifelong learning skills. Examples include the requirement of student attendance at professional society meetings or service functions and independent research into global and societal issues that are likely to influence their careers. Our project-based curriculum requires skills beyond those imparted in the classroom. For example, students must learn with little or no classroom instruction to create parts and assemblies with a 3D modeling tool, to diagnose technical problems with their projects, and to learn to implement sensors as part of their design projects. By analyzing student questionnaires and curricular content, we measure the numbers of activities that promote lifelong learning as well as the extent to which these activities are completed independently. This paper will provide an overview of our first year engineering experience as well as the assessment results that help us measure the extent of lifelong learning.

Background and Introduction

Criterion 3H (Program Outcomes) of the 2008-2009 ABET EAC requires that engineering programs instill within their students “a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning”1. Though all engineering programs recognize the need for providing their students with tools to continue to learn new tools and strategies throughout their professional career, many experience difficulty determining methods to measure how well their curricula instill lifelong learning attributes. The Engineer of 2020 discusses “the imperative for engineers to be lifelong learners,” noting that technology changes rapidly and that engineers frequently change careers.2

Litzinger et al. noted that lifelong learning can occur in two modes: formal and informal. The formal mode includes university courses, and the informal mode refers to learning that takes place naturally as an individual learns to accomplish a task3. We believe that project-intensive educational experiences provide fertile ground for practicing both modes of lifelong learning.

Nelson4 described a general education class targeted to engineering and technology students. The primary objectives of the class were to provide students with the opportunity to think reflectively on merits and drawbacks of technology in a personal as well as global and societal context and to promote lifelong learning and skills. Assignments and discussions that help students develop their own opinions and attitudes regarding the impact of engineering and technology on global and societal issues instill a passion for learning in some students. Most people naturally want to do something in their lifetime that benefits society, so discussing “the bigger picture” can be an important motivator for sustained lifelong learning.

Hall, D., & Cronk, S., & Nelson, J., & Brackin, P. (2009, June), Facilitating Lifelong Learning Skills Through A First Year Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5718

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