June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.778.1 - 15.778.15
Integration and Reinforcement of Engineering Skills Beginning in the First-Year Design Experience
As the first step in implementing a Student-driven Pedagogy of Integrated, Reinforced, Active Learning (SPIRAL) throughout our Mechanical Engineering curriculum, we are modifying two freshman courses to introduce, integrate and sequentially reinforce multiple engineering topics that lay a foundation for subsequent, more focused ME coursework. Our approach builds on Bruner’s1 concept of a “‘spiral curriculum’ that turns back on itself at higher levels” through repetition at ever-increasing depths of knowledge. By integrating topics throughout the curriculum that are typically only taught in separate, disconnected engineering classes, and doing so in a design-oriented context, students are forced to repeatedly “parallel process” various engineering skills much as they will be expected to do in engineering practice. Integration also facilitates a redistribution of engineering topics throughout the entire curriculum that (1) reinforces student understanding and retention through reinforcement at short intervals, and (2) minimizes fading of conceptual knowledge due to extended disuse – as is often problematic in the traditional ME curriculum.
Historically, engineering education has followed a linear model in which engineering topics are taught in separate, disconnected classes that “serially encapsulate” the course material in the students’ minds. In contrast, our newly developed first-year course sequence, funded by a Course Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement Phase 1 Grant from the National Science Foundation titled “Design-Based SPIRAL Learning Curriculum” (DUE-0837759), strives to integrate a variety of engineering topics in an effort to introduce students to (1) important science and math concepts in an engineering context, and (2) the complexity and multifaceted nature of professional engineering practice. Research studies suggest that such an integrated approach can transform engineering education’s historical goal, i.e., the acquisition of engineering science/math knowledge, to also include the goal of professional development.2 Engineering programs that integrate science, math, and engineering topics have been shown to produce students that are more likely to pass core engineering courses, more self-confident in their engineering abilities (including communication), and more likely to stay in an engineering program and make progress towards a degree.2 In addition to these benefits, we anticipate that the integration of design, professionalism, engineering science principles and computational tools and skills will prepare students to be much better practicing engineers. Moreover, the repetition of basic concepts throughout the curriculum is expected to enhance students’ mastery of engineering science/math principles and their appropriate implementation. This paper will address the ways in which we have implemented (1) the introduction and (2) integration of engineering science concepts and engineering practice skills, and (3) the reinforcement of those topics in our newly developed freshman design experience in preparation for further integration and reinforcement in later courses.
Mascaro, D., & Bamberg, S., & Roemer, R. (2010, June), Integration And Reinforcement Of Mechanical Engineering Skills Beginning In The First Year Design Experience Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16751
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