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Global Initiatives: Shaping the Curricular and Co-Curricular Landscape and its Impact on Student Development

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Technical Session

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.750.1 - 22.750.16



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Paper Authors


Barbara A Masi Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Barbara A. Masi, Ph.D., is the Director of Education Innovation and Assessment in the MIT School of Engineering.

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Global Initiatives: Shaping the curricular and co-curricular landscape and its impact on student developmentMany colleges and universities have sought to design learning experiences that develop the rangeof complex abilities needed to address major global issues. The variety of learning experiencesspans the curricular and co-curricular landscape to include new programs, such as multi- orinterdisciplinary degree programs, theme-based learning communities, minors, or co-curricularactivities. Global initiative themes drawn into these experiences are many: internationaldevelopment, urban design, or energy are just some examples. A common factor in each of theselearning experiences is the goal of integrating engineering, science, and social sciencedisciplines.Some have noted that a drawback of such experiences is that they often exist in isolation fromother parts of an undergraduate’s educational experience. Moreover, even when students maycomplete subjects in disciplines outside of their major discipline, they often see their courseworkas disconnected subjects. Most importantly, such experiences may not help the student develop acapacity to integrate the pieces of his or her undergraduate experience into comprehensivewhole. In a recent Carnegie Foundation study, the authors asked how can we createcomprehensive learning experiences that are greater than the sum if its parts?During the past decade, many campuses have initiated major efforts around theme-based globalinitiatives. For example, an institution might organize an initiative in energy or global healthwhich includes a comprehensive array of activities in research, education, and co-curricularactivities in which undergraduates can participate. The question is how might such initiativeshelp create an integrative learning experience for undergraduate education? This study examined the impact of global initiative campus programs as an integrative learningexperience and its impact on student ability development and career paths. An undergraduatesenior survey was designed, tested and distributed to engineering seniors. Using a preciselydefined set of questions, the survey gathered student information on initiative choice, type ofactivities, length of participation, and motivations for choice. Using a Bandura confidence scale,students were asked to report their self-efficacy on a series of concrete ability tasks associatedwith engineering, science, social science perspectives as well as professional and integrativedisciplinary abilities used in complex problem solving. Finally, seniors were asked to report ontheir post-graduation career plans and career plan connections with global initiatives.Of the 442 survey respondents (Response rate 43%), 249 or 57% of respondents fit the categoryof “deep exploration” of a single global initiative outside of their major, with 43% categorized as“non-explorers.” General patterns of respondent choice of initiative and related deep explorationactivities differed markedly by gender. Ability responses were analyzed by statistically relatedsets of abilities into five factors: engineering knowledge, engineering problem solving anddesign, interdisciplinary knowledge, interdisciplinary problem solving and design, andprofessional. “Deep explorers” mean ability self-efficacy was higher, with statisticalsignificance, than that of “non-explorers” for factors interdisciplinary and professional abilityfactors, but not for engineering-related abilities. Significant differences were also noted forcareer paths, and certainty of career choice, for “deep explorers” versus “non-explorers.”It is suggested that global initiatives in each area created an organized, more coherent, learningspace which students were able to use to, in effect, uniquely organize their undergraduatelearning experience. “Deep explorer” students were able to use activities in this space to furtherdevelopment of key interdisciplinary abilities and shape careers that connected engineering withother disciplines.

Masi, B. A. (2011, June), Global Initiatives: Shaping the Curricular and Co-Curricular Landscape and its Impact on Student Development Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18031

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