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Making Connections Across a Four-Year Project-Based Curriculum: ePortfolios as a Space for Reflection and Integrative Learning

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society Division Technical Session 7

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Chrysanthe Demetry Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Dr. Chrysanthe Demetry is associate professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Morgan Teaching & Learning Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Her teaching and scholarship interests focus on materials science education, K-12 engineering outreach, gender equity in STEM, and intercultural learning in experiential education abroad. As director of the Morgan Center at WPI since 2006, Dr. Demetry coordinates programs and services fostering excellence and innovation in teaching at WPI and supports course-based and program-level assessment of student learning outcomes.

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Paula Quinn Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Through her role as Associate Director for the Center for Project-Based Learning at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Paula Quinn works to improve student learning in higher education by supporting faculty and staff at WPI and at other institutions to advance work on project-based learning. She believes project-based learning holds significant potential for increasing the diversity of students who succeed in college and who persist in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, and she views her work with the Center as contributing to education reform from the inside out. She holds an M.A. in Developmental Psychology from Clark University and a B.A. in Psychology from Case Western Reserve University. Her background includes working in the field of education evaluation, where she focused primarily on the areas of project-based learning; STEM; pre-literacy and literacy; student life; learning communities; and professional development. She has worked on projects whose funding sources have included the National Science Foundation, the Institute of Education Sciences, and the U.S. Department of Education.

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Stephen James Kmiotek P.E. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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As a Professor of Practice, my focus is to bring my 30 years of experience in the chemical and environmental industries to the undergraduate classes and curriculum development. My focus through most of my career has been on Chemical Process Safety, Environmental, Health and Safety, and, Air Pollution Engineering. These fields draw on virtually every part of chemical engineering, but they also draw heavily on other disciplines, including social justice and law, leading to programs that are heavily multidisciplinary. Also, my experience has spanned many types of industries, from traditional chemical companies, to electronics and microelectronics, to pulp and paper, metal foundries, and even wineries and breweries. The result is a rich, integrated background on which to draw to help mentor the engineering leaders of the future.

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The systematic use of reflection and integrative learning across experiences in the curriculum and co-curriculum has often been neglected in engineering education, yet these processes are essential for deep and transferable learning. This paper reports on the use of ePortfolios to provide a mechanism for reflection and integrative learning in a four-year, project-based curriculum. Student use of ePortfolios was introduced in the context of the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges Scholars Program. As a pilot in the program’s first year at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), 15 seniors created showcase ePortfolios as an ungraded activity, using a retrospective approach to gather evidence from both academic and extracurricular experiences to demonstrate five competencies. Student interviews revealed that they valued creating ePortfolios and that the process was inherently reflective and created opportunities for integrative learning. However, evidence of integrative learning and reflection in the content of the ePortfolios was inconsistent, ranging from very little to significant. Student learning—and skill at communicating understanding of their learning—could be enhanced by ensuring a scaffolded and recursive process for ePortfolio creation that incorporates ongoing dialogue with mentors and peers.

Demetry, C., & Quinn, P., & Kmiotek, S. J. (2019, June), Making Connections Across a Four-Year Project-Based Curriculum: ePortfolios as a Space for Reflection and Integrative Learning Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33076

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