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On an Upward Trend: Reflection in Engineering Education

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Studying Engineering Education Research & Institutions

Tagged Divisions

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society and Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1196.1 - 26.1196.13



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Paper Authors


Lauren A. Sepp University of Washington

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Lauren Sepp is a first year Ph.D. student at the University of Washington, studying Human Centered Design & Engineering. As a research assistant in the Center for Engineering Learning and Teaching, her research interests focus on engineering education and the importance of tactile learning.

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Mania Orand Human Centered Design and Engineering

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Mania Orand is a researcher in the field of Human Computer Interaction at the University of Washington. Her research interests are in using reflection in designing web and mobile technologies, user experience, and digital media.

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Jennifer A Turns University of Washington

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Lauren D. Thomas University of Washington


Brook Sattler University of Washington

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Dr. Brook Sattler is a Research Scientist in the Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT) and a Multi-Campus Coordinator for the Consortium to Promote Reflection in Engineering Education (CPREE) at the University of Washington. Her research interests include understanding and promoting self-authoring engineers.

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Cynthia J. Atman University of Washington

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Cynthia J. Atman is the founding director of the Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT), a professor in Human Centered Design & Engineering, and the inaugural holder of the Mitchell T. & Lella Blanche Bowie Endowed Chair at the University of Washington. Dr. Atman is co-director of the newly-formed Consortium for Promoting Reflection in Engineering Education (CPREE), funded by a $4.4 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. She was director of the NSF-funded Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE), a national research center that was funded from 2003-2010. Dr. Atman is the author or co-author on over 115 archival publications. She has been invited to give many keynote addresses, including a Distinguished Lecture at the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) 2014 Annual Conference.

Dr. Atman joined the UW in 1998 after seven years on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research focuses on engineering education pedagogy, engineering design learning, assessing the consideration of context in engineering design, and understanding undergraduate engineering student pathways. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and ASEE. She was the recipient of the 2002 ASEE Chester F. Carlson Award for Innovation in Engineering Education and the 2009 UW David B. Thorud Leadership Award. Dr. Atman holds a Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

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Reflection in Engineering: On an Upward TrendIn recent years, reflection has become an increasingly studied and valued portion of theeducation process for engineers. Reflection can help students to identify themselves in thebroader context of engineering by understanding the implications of their work and how theircollege experience prepares them to make significant, thoughtful, and responsible contributionsto the field of engineering. Reflection in engineering education, which can be facilitated byreflective activities, is largely defined as the process by which students recall certain experiencesand evaluate them using a variety of lenses to assign significance or meaning to thatexperience. Given the arguable importance of reflection to engineering education, we areinterested in exploring the question: how much explicit, named attention has reflection receivedin engineering education scholarship and how do we interpret these results?We conducted a literature search and review to better understand the role of reflection inengineering education scholarship through assessing the number of papers that involve reflectionin some way. We were interested in the number of papers that use the word reflection and someof its derivatives, such as reflect and reflexivity, in the title and body of the papers. We looked attwo engineering education conferences, the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE)and Frontiers in Education (FIE), and sorted through many papers published throughout theyears. Both ASEE and FIE facilitate numerous publications at conferences each year with an eyeto broaden educational perspectives and to share techniques and understandings. We employeddifferent search strategies to ensure an accurate capture of relevant papers, and also sortedthrough the results manually to eliminate duplicates or instances where reflection is not used asdescribed in this paper.In this paper, we will present our results on the explicit discussion of the role of reflection andreflective activities in engineering education. For example, we have discovered that the idea ofreflection in ASEE and FIE publications has seen significant growth from a combined 20 papersin the respective conferences formative year, to a total of over 350 papers in the year 2014,increasing in a linear fashion. The quantitative publication findings prompt us to investigatefurther. For example, why has the topic of reflection, being understood as important in thedevelopment of an engineer in an educational setting, had limited traction in engineeringeducation publications and discussions?Furthermore, in the global discussion on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM),we recognize that reflection is considered to be a key aspect in meeting the goal of developing awell rounded and critically thinking technical force. To meet this goal, it is imperative to addressreflective techniques in our research as well as to incorporate them into the classroom. Ourinvestigation of the trend in explicit discussions of reflection, and identifying potential reasonsbehind this trend, will concentrate more attention on the importance of reflection, ultimatelycontributing to the transformation of engineering education.

Sepp, L. A., & Orand, M., & Turns, J. A., & Thomas, L. D., & Sattler, B., & Atman, C. J. (2015, June), On an Upward Trend: Reflection in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24533

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