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Measuring Connections: Novel Methods and Findings

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count

7

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37492

Download Count

23

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Paper Authors

biography

Elise Barrella P.E. DfX Consulting LLC Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-0020-2035

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Dr. Elise Barrella is the founder and CEO of DfX Consulting LLC which offers engineering education and design research, planning and consulting services. She is a registered Professional Engineer and was a Founding Faculty member of the Department of Engineering at Wake Forest University. She is passionate about curriculum development, scholarship and student mentoring on transportation systems, sustainability, and engineering design. Dr. Barrella completed her Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at Georgia Tech where she conducted research in transportation and sustainability as part of the Infrastructure Research Group (IRG). In addition to the Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, Dr. Barrella holds a Master of City and Regional Planning (Transportation) from Georgia Institute of Technology and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Bucknell University. Dr. Barrella has investigated best practices in engineering education since 2003 (at Bucknell University) and began collaborating on sustainable engineering design research while at Georgia Tech. Prior to joining the WFU faculty, she led the junior capstone design sequence at James Madison University, was the inaugural director of the NAE Grand Challenges Program at JMU, and developed first-year coursework and interdisciplinary electives.

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Mary Katherine Watson The Citadel Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-1718-5825

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Mary Katherine Watson is currently an Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at The Citadel. She holds BS and MS degrees in Biosystems Engineering from Clemson University and a PhD in Environmental Engineering from The Georgia Institute of Technology. She enjoys, and has invested significantly, in the development of her undergraduate students, serving as past faculty advisor for numerous student groups. Dr. Watson is passionate about improving access to engineering education and serves as the faculty director for a scholarship program to recruit and support high-performing, low-income civil engineering students. Dr. Watson is also interested in understanding and assessing students’ cognitive processes, especially development of cognitive flexibility and interactions with cognitive load. Dr. Watson is the proud recipient of seven teaching awards and six best paper awards. She was previously named the Young Civil Engineer of the Year by the South Carolina Section of ASCE and currently serves as a Senior Associate Editor for the Journal of Civil Engineering Education.

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Robin Dawn Anderson James Madison University

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Robin D. Anderson serves as the Academic Unit Head for the Department of Graduate Psychology at James Madison University. She holds a doctorate in Assessment and Measurement. She previously served as the Associate Director of the Center for Assessment and Research Studies at JMU. Her areas of research include assessment practice and engineering education research.

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Abstract

Faculty often observe that students’ difficulty with connecting knowledge from across classes or domains limits their ability to fully analyze problems and evaluate trade-offs. Knowledge retrieval and transfer can be particularly challenging when students are presented with a new problem context or expected to make connections across disciplines. Problems related to “sustainability” and/or “systems” exemplify the multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary problems that require students (and professionals) to demonstrate cognitive flexibility. The primary goals of our NSF EEC project were to improve students’ abilities to apply sustainable engineering design concepts across different problems or design contexts and to improve assessment of learning gains using direct measures. The more specific objectives which guided research activities for the project’s duration were: (1) Identify appropriate measures of cognitive flexibility that apply to design and other open-ended engineering tasks; (2) Develop and adapt instructional materials and assessments to measure and help students improve their ability to transfer knowledge to/across sustainable design problems; (3) Explore differences in students’ responses to the interventions between different types of engineering programs.

Our poster will share methods, findings, and future work related to each of the three objectives. Specifically, we will describe our efforts to define appropriate measures of cognitive effort and flexibility using direct assessments and brain imaging technology. Using neurocognition measures is an underdeveloped approach in engineering education research, particularly for complex problem-solving like sustainable design. For this project, electroencephalogram (EEG) measurements were used to try to understand student performance on different types of sustainability knowledge tasks along with validated self-report measures. Our study showed that overall students’ concept mapping tasks resulted in more complex representations of sustainable design than listing tasks without increasing their EEG-measured cognitive load. Students did, however, report perceptions of exerting more mental effort to complete concept maps than lists. Findings were consistent across four different sustainability prompts, although there was individual variation in cognitive load and performance that warrants further investigation. In terms of the application of sustainability knowledge, we will also present a new sustainable design rubric that has been tested by students and faculty at two different institutions. The rubric is appropriate for both formative and summative assessment of student projects and can be completed by students and faculty. Along with the rubric, we will also highlight the validation process we used, which required adaptation of a widely accepted process for investigating the validity of tests and similar instruments. The poster will conclude with key take-aways and impact from this research project. Future work, beyond the scope of this project, could include further investigations into cognitive load measurement for complex tasks and exploration of how individual students’ cognitive biases (e.g., a preference for environmental over social sustainability dimension) may be leveraged to enhance design team performance.

Barrella, E., & Watson, M. K., & Anderson, R. D. (2021, July), Measuring Connections: Novel Methods and Findings Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37492

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