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First-Year Engineering Students’ Reflections: Plans in Response to Perceived Performance on Course Learning Objectives

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2021 First-Year Engineering Experience



Publication Date

August 9, 2021

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August 9, 2021

End Date

August 21, 2021

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Kayla Ney University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Biological Systems Engineering

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Kayla is a Master's student in Biological Systems Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a focus in engineering education. She received her B.S. in Biological Systems Engineering at UNL and is currently pursuing an M.S. in BSE. Her current research is investigating antioxidant microparticles for the mitigation of low back pain. As an undergraduate, Kayla conducted data analysis under Dr. Diefes-Dux with the Discipline-Based Research Group embedded in the UNL BSE Department. She is continuing this work, looking at standards based grading and student reflection to understand student learning.

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Heidi A. Diefes-Dux University of Nebraska - Lincoln Orcid 16x16

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Heidi A. Diefes-Dux is a Professor in Biological Systems Engineering at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. She received her B.S. and M.S. in Food Science from Cornell University and her Ph.D. in Food Process Engineering from the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University. She was an inaugural faculty member of the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University and now leads the Discipline-Based Education Research Initiative in the College of Engineering at UNL. Her research focuses on the development, implementation, and assessment of modeling and design activities with authentic engineering contexts. She also focuses on the implementation of learning objective-based grading and reflection.

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Title: [Work-In-Progress] First-Year Engineering Students’ Reflections: Plans in Response to Perceived Performance on Course Learning Objectives Keywords: Reflection, Self-Regulated Learning, Quantitative, First Year

This work-in-progress paper will present quantitative findings from weekly student reflections that focused students’ attention on their abilities with the course learning objectives and their plans to improve their learning. This study was grounded in Zimmerman’s Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) theory, which in essence entails one engaging in cycles of planning, monitored actions, and reflection to improve one’s learning.

A major struggle for engineering students is self-regulation, particularly when it comes to making learning strategy decisions. SRL theory espouses the idea that students who reflect on their work improve their metacognitive ability, which is an ability that can help students better face future problems, improve performance, and establish lifelong learning practices. First-year students, in particular, have difficulty regulating their study habits and reflecting on how they are learning. The intention of this study is to investigate students’ self-assessments on their abilities with the stated weekly learning objectives compared to their plans to improve their learning. Findings will reveal the extent to which students map their learning plans to their current understanding and skills, and will provide instructors with information that can help them better prepare students to adjust their own learning strategies to improve their performance.

The research questions are: How do students’ plans vary with their perceived achievement of the weekly learning objectives? Did their plans differ depending on their course performance?

The setting for this study was a required first-year engineering problem-solving and computer tools course (N ~ 1600) at an R1 institution. Student submitted nine reflections over the semester in concert with the completion of weekly homework assignments. In each reflection, students rated their abilities with the learning objectives associated with the homework they had just completed. Then, they selected (from a list of 12) the learning strategies they planned to employ in the coming week to improve their learning.

While this reflection data set has been used in other prior work, it has not been used to explore the alignment between students plans and the learning objectives with which they perceived they were having trouble. There are some challenges that need to be resolved to fully answer the research question, including an appropriate classification schema for the learning objectives and classification of the planned actions. This paper will briefly review the research trajectory that has led to asking the research questions above and outline the data analysis plan that is emerging from preliminary results for one class section (n ~ 115).

Ney, K., & Diefes-Dux, H. A. (2021, August), First-Year Engineering Students’ Reflections: Plans in Response to Perceived Performance on Course Learning Objectives Paper presented at 2021 First-Year Engineering Experience, Virtual .

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015