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Learning Essays And The Reflective Learner: Supporting Reflection In Engineering Design Education

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Conference

1997 Annual Conference

Location

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997

ISSN

2153-5965

Page Count

14

Page Numbers

2.274.1 - 2.274.14

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/6665

Download Count

579

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Paper Authors

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Janet K. Allen

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Farrokh Mistree

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Wendy Newstetter

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Jennifer Turns

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Abstract
NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2230

Learning Essays and the Reflective Learner: Supporting Reflection in Engineering Design Education Jennifer Turns, Wendy Newstetter, Janet K. Allen, and Farrokh Mistree Georgia Institute of Technology

Abstract: Learning engineering design requires more than simply having design experiences. Design experiences provide a context for students to practice design skills and an opportunity for students to learn deep lessons about the nature of engineering design. Reflection on the experiences is necessary in order to recognize and realize these lessons. Student questions like “Why do we have to do so much paperwork” and “When are we going to get to the real design work of building” indicate when students are not taking the time to understand the lessons that are afforded by the design experience. We believe that the writing of learning essays can help students expand and enhance the lessons that they are learning from design experiences and, as a result, we have been using them in our design classes for over ten years. Learning essays are short, structured compositions in which students explore the lessons they have learned from experiences. Because of student difficulties selecting topics, structuring the essays, and understanding the role of the activity, not all students benefit as they could. Additionally, the overhead associated with the submission, grading, distribution of help, and management of the activity in the classroom creates problems for both students and instructors. In response to these difficulties, we have designed and developed the Reflective Learner, an electronic environment that supports and facilitates the learning essay writing activity. Students write their essays in the environment. The environment keeps track of the essays as well as provide several forms of support designed to address the student problems. Instructors can define essay assignments and grade submitted essays in the environment. In this paper, we describe the environment and present some findings from a formative evaluation during the 1996-1997 academic year.

1. THE ROLE OF REFLECTION AND LEARNING ESSAYS IN ENGINEERING DESIGN

In commenting on the state of engineering education, Dixon recently warned “We often confuse experience with learning, or provide experience without education” and “Experience per se does nothing for designers - or anyone else - unless they learn something cognitive in the process” [1]. Experiences, in the case of engineering design education, provide a context for students to practice design skills and an opportunity for students to learn deep lessons about the nature of engineering design. Student questions like “Why do we have to do so much paperwork” and “When are we going to get to the real design work of building” indicate when students are not taking the time to understand the lessons that are afforded by the design experience. Studies of learning suggest that those students who spend time trying to answer such questions through explanation, abstraction or theorizing tend to perform better on transfer tests of skills and conceptual understanding [2-4]. Such reflection on experience is a cornerstone to many theories of learning from experience [5, 6] and is increasingly recognized as a characteristic of successful practitioners [7-9]. We are looking for ways to help students be more reflective about the engineering design experiences that we provide for them [10].

Allen, J. K., & Mistree, F., & Newstetter, W., & Turns, J. (1997, June), Learning Essays And The Reflective Learner: Supporting Reflection In Engineering Design Education Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. https://peer.asee.org/6665

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