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Formalizing Experiential Learning Requirements in an Existing Interdisciplinary Engineering Curriculum

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Investigating Instructional Strategies

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

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Harold R. Underwood Messiah College

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Dr. Underwood received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in 1989, and has been a faculty member of the engineering Department at Messiah College since 1992. Besides teaching Circuits, Electromagnetics, and Communications Systems, he supervises engineering students in the Communications Technology Group on credited work in the Integrated Projects Curriculum (IPC) of the Engineering Department, and those who participate voluntarily via the Collaboratory for Strategic Parnternships and Applied Research. His on-going projects include improving flight tracking and messaging systems for small planes in remote locations, and developing assistive communication technology for those with cognitive and behavioral challenges, such as high-functioning autism, or PTSD.

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Formalizing Experiential Learning Requirements In An Existing Interdisciplinary Engineering Project Curriculum

In education, experiential learning has become a best practice, high-impact strategy, because engaging with real life problems heightens students’ interest, teaches them career-related skills, and enables them to become more self-aware/mature independent thinkers. While many students engage in experiential learning activities voluntarily, some schools have formalized a credited version as an elective to ensure the learning includes the reflective and conceptual components, as verified by a deliverable outcome. A few schools such as Messiah College have also gone a step further to require an approved experiential learning activity of all students, including engineering majors, to enhance their career preparation and community engagement before graduation. Students matriculating to Messiah College as of 2015 may now opt to fulfill the Experiential Learning Initiative (ELI) by either credited internship, practicum, service learning, leadership, off campus program, or research. While pre-graduation professional preparation may be new for some liberal arts disciplines, engineering has encouraged an experiential approach for some time. Since 2007, the Engineering Department at our institution has required students to complete a multiyear “practicum” which functions as an on-campus credited internship with our Collaboratory for Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research. Junior and senior engineering students receive credit for such project work through a four-semester Engineering Project 1-4 sequence, coupled with a two-semester Engineering Seminar 1-2 sequence as the reflective component. What remains is to incorporate the new features of the ELI mandate. While many engineering students on their own already complete paid internships with off-campus companies before graduation, to avoid extra tuition expense and unneeded credits, few opt for an academically approved internship with its intentional reflective component. Thus, we have decided to embed the specific ELI requirements related to reflection and the deliverable into our existing on-campus required upper divisional project curriculum structure. In our Seminar 1 course, students write four pre-experience learning objectives in stipulated areas; during Seminar 2, they complete correlated post-experience reflective questions, and compose a deliverable. In between Seminar 1 and 2, students have one to three semesters of work experience in their Project 1-4 courses, to serve as the basis of their reflection. As an example of how engineering at our institution has implemented a new college-wide formalized experiential learning requirement, this paper details its incorporation into our existing curriculum, the nature of formative and reflective questions used, parameters of students’ structured experience, expectations of the evaluative rubric used for assessment, specifications of the deliverable, and connection to the Kolb model. This paper also identifies and briefly describes a sample of the interdisciplinary projects from which our students choose to do their project experience, ranging from local to international in scope, providing a range of impactful experiences on which to reflect.

Underwood, H. R. (2017, June), Formalizing Experiential Learning Requirements in an Existing Interdisciplinary Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28379

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