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Integrating Literature and Problem-Based Learning in a First-Year Engineering Academy

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Assessing Literacies in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Susan McGrade Indiana Institute of Technology

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Dr. McGrade is a Professor of English at Indiana Institute of Technology, where she teaches a range of classes from First-Year Composition to African American Literature. She often works closely with the College of Engineering, and has developed both an integrated model for English instruction within a Software Engineering program, and a problem-based learning curriculum for a First-Year Engineering Academy. She is also the current NSBE Chapter Advisor.

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STEM students often enter liberal studies classes with a lack of interest and enthusiasm, sometimes coupled with, and sometimes caused by, a lack of understanding of the value and rigor of the humanities and social sciences; this difficulty is only compounded by a popular culture that has become suspicious of scholarly expertise and an academic culture that has seen the decline of the humanities. This paper explains a classroom strategy designed to address STEM student resistance to liberal studies within a first-year composition class. This strategy integrates problem-based learning (PBL) and general engineering industry concepts (problem solving, professional practices, and quality control) to guide literary research and analysis and continuously improve students’ written, oral, and visual communication (WOV) skills, as well as their abilities to understand new social, political, and economic contexts, an important criterion of EC 2000. In short, this strategy presents students with a problem: determine the best American fiction of a particular year. The faculty member then guides students through literary research practices, and a formal call for proposal process. She divides the class into teams, and each team proposes a selection of texts to read during the semester. After the winning proposal is selected, the students read the texts and write a number of literary analyses throughout the semester. In the last phase of the process, each student creates an argument to justify his/her selection of the best work of the year. While this may seem a risky endeavor, the risk is minimized by establishing appropriate parameters and standards by the “Project Director” (aka the English faculty member) in order to produce a course that is both academically rigorous and engaging to students. This paper provides a brief literature review of current trends in first year composition (FYC) programs and situates this approach within these trends; describes the context of the course delivery, including school demographics and curriculum requirements; explains the course development and design, and includes important documents such as the class syllabus, entry documents (common in PBL), and requests for proposals (RFP); and provides some measures of results, according to student performance, course evaluations, samples of student work, and instructor reaction and reflection.

McGrade, S. (2016, June), Integrating Literature and Problem-Based Learning in a First-Year Engineering Academy Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25404

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