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Learning Assessment In Problem Based Learning For Bme Students

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Assessment of Biomedical Engineering Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.801.1 - 7.801.8



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Paper Authors

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Wendy Newstetter

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Paul Benkeser

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Session #2002

Learning Assessment in Problem-based Learning for BME Students

Wendy C. Newstetter, Paul J. Benkeser Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering Georgia Institute of Technology

Abstract In the fall of 2001, the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech inaugurated its undergraduate degree program. The two anchor courses in the curriculum, BMED1300/2300 have adopted an innovative educational approach called Problem-based Learning or PBL that has been used in medical schools for more than a decade. In this approach, teams of eight students tackle real world Biomedical Engineering problems guided by a faculty tutor. In this paper, we discuss the challenges of designing appropriate assessment instruments for a PBL course. Since the primary emphasis in PBL is on students developing identified cognitive behaviors and collaboration strategies as well as science and engineering concepts, the assessment instruments must mirror these priorities. These behaviors, however, are more qualitative than quantitative in nature, which is where the challenge comes in. Here, we describe the assessment tools we have developed, present a justification for their development and report on the overall success of this educational experiment.

Problem-based Learning in Biomedical Engineering: A Rationale The field of Biomedical Engineering (BME) represents a merger between traditional engineering disciplines such as mechanical, chemical, and electrical engineering and the biology-based disciplines of life sciences and medicine. This merger was prompted by the need to improve procedures such as diagnostic testing, noninvasive surgical techniques, and patient rehabilitation. In the last twenty years, BME has evolved into one of the fastest growing fields while having a significant impact on medicine, biotechnology, and basic science.

The multidisciplinary nature of Biomedical Engineering creates particular challenges on the educational front. Medical technology changes at such a rapid pace that classroom practitioners are hard pressed to keep abreast of advancements in all the related fields. On the student front, the multidisciplinary nature of the field demands that students develop multidisciplinary skills and knowledge. They need the modeling and quantitative skills of traditional engineers, but they also need the systems understanding representative of a more biological approach. In short, they need to be fully conversant in two intellectual traditions that are in some ways at odds with one another. While engineering seeks to analyze the world in order to set constraints and design, the life sciences work from hypotheses towards explanatory accounts of phenomena. Reconciling these two disparate practices requires cognitive flexibility and true interdisciplinary thinking.

In an attempt to reconcile these worlds and foster interdisciplinary thinking among our under- graduate and graduate students, the BME Department at Georgia Tech has adopted a model of learning and a set of educational practices that have been used in medical education for more Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Newstetter, W., & Benkeser, P. (2002, June), Learning Assessment In Problem Based Learning For Bme Students Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10359

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