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Integrating Reflection into Engineering Education

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Methodological & Theoretical Contributions to Engineering Education 1

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.776.1 - 24.776.16



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Paper Authors

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Jennifer A Turns University of Washington

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Brook Sattler University of Washington

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Ken Yasuhara Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT)


Jim L. Borgford-Parnell University of Washington Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Jim Borgford-Parnell is Associate Director and Instructional Consultant at the Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching at the University of Washington. He taught design, education-research methods, and adult and higher education theory and pedagogy courses for over 30 years. He has been involved in instructional development for 18 years, and currently does both research and instructional development in engineering education. Jim has taught courses on the development of reflective teaching practices, and has presented workshops on learning how to learn and developing metacognitive awareness.

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Cynthia J. Atman University of Washington

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Cynthia J. Atman is the founding director of the Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT), a professor in Human Centered Design & Engineering, and the inaugural holder of the Mitchell T. & Lella Blanche Bowie Endowed Chair at the University of Washington. She also directed the national NSF-funded Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE). Her research centers on engineering design learning with a focus on issues of context in design.

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Integrating Reflection into Engineering EducationWe live in a world of high expectations. For example, we are expected to deeplyunderstand who we are, what we believe, and how we interact with others. In aconstant state of busyness and multitasking, we “should” work toward such deepunderstanding by reflecting—the act of looking back on experiences to understandwhat they mean in service of the future. In engineering, with the increasingemphasis on large-scale grand challenges, people-oriented issues, rapidly changingwork contexts, and lifelong learning, reflection has become even more important.While reflection is often characterized as individual and self-directed, there areopportunities (a) to conceptualize it as both an individual and a social endeavor and(b) to more intentionally support it through a variety of instructional strategies.In our work, we are interested in creating more reflection opportunities forengineering undergraduates. In our proposed paper, we plan to explore reflection inengineering education by (1) proposing a particular way of talking about reflection,(2) benchmarking reflection in other disciplines, and (3) framing movement towardmore effectively supporting student reflection. In Boyer’s terms, this set ofactivities represents a scholarship of integration.We will start with a proposed way of talking about reflection in order to groundconversations. Given the everyday nature of the term, it can be hard to seereflection as a disciplined, critical form of thinking. Building on that, it is quitepossible that the term is used in different ways. Some of the scholars who writeabout reflection point to this issue--that people using the term often are focusing onrelated, but slightly different phenomena. In framing our proposed way of talkingabout reflection, we will draw conceptualizations of reflection from a variety ofscholarly communities.In drawing across disciplines (such as teacher education, medicine, management,and higher education), we will offer different perspectives about how othercommunities talk about and support reflection. Benchmarking reflection in otherdisciplines can inform the engineering education community as we work towardintegrating activities that support student reflection into our practice.Finally, we will present a framework for understanding opportunities andchallenges associated with supporting reflective thinking in engineering education.The framework emphasizes thinking from a student perspective (whether studentsare or are not engaging in reflective thinking), as well as an educator perspective(whether educators are or are not intentionally trying to support reflectivethinking). This framework leads to the identification of four conditions: (1)naturally occurring reflective thinking, (2) missed opportunities for reflectivethinking, (3) successfully supported reflective thinking, and (4) unsuccessfulefforts to support reflective thinking. This framework is helpful for benchmarkingthe situation in engineering education, as we will illustrate through variousexamples. In addition, the framework provides a backdrop for talking about someof the challenges associated with supporting reflection in engineering education.We anticipate that this work will permit (a) researchers interested in reflection tobetter conceptualize their research interests and (b) educators interested inreflection to better design activities to support this important form of thinking.

Turns, J. A., & Sattler, B., & Yasuhara, K., & Borgford-Parnell, J. L., & Atman, C. J. (2014, June), Integrating Reflection into Engineering Education Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20668

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