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Practical, Authentic and Sustainable Development and Assessment of Critical Thinking in Engineering through Model Eliciting Activities

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Student Learning, Problem Solving, & Critical Thinking 2

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.989.1 - 24.989.17



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Paper Authors


James A. Kaupp Queen's University

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Jake Kaupp, Ph.D. is an Engineering Education Researcher at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. His primary research interests include: course and program assessment, critical thinking & problem solving development, performance based assessment, model eliciting activities and data analytics in higher education.

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Brian M Frank Queen's University

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Brian Frank is an associate professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, where he has taught courses in electronics and wireless systems. He is the DuPont Canada Chair in Engineering Education Research and Development, and the Director of Program Development in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science where he works on engineering curriculum development, program assessment, and developing educational technology.

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Practical, authentic and sustainable development and assessment of critical thinking in engineering through model eliciting activitiesHigher order skills such as problem solving or critical thinking are key attributes for graduates of anyengineering program, are amongst industries highly desired skills for new employees and are considereda hallmark of a university education.  While most programs claim to develop critical thinking in somemanner, deliberate development and direct assessment of critical thinking using some kind of conceptualframework is less common and quite challenging.  This may be due to a lack of definition of criticalthinking and the continuing debate on critical thinking being a generic or discipline­specific skill, and lackof examples of practical, authentic and sustainable methods for developing and assessing critical thinkingin engineering using discipline­specific performance tasks.Model eliciting activities (MEAs) are performance­based, realistic problems used in the classroom thatrequire learners to document their solution to problems using mathematical models, and document theirprocesses for solving them. Studies have shown MEAs to be valuable in helping students to developconceptual understanding, knowledge transfer, and problem­solving skills.  The common principles onwhich the MEAs are based upon are interwoven with aspects of critical thinking;  the assessment andvaluation of information; formulating justified assumptions and arguments; generating a valid, defensiblemodel; presenting conclusions and recommendations resulting from analysis; and meta­cognitivereflective self­assessment to test and revise thinking.  These elements can be carefully structured into adiscipline specific framework for critical thinking in engineering as well as organized into a rubric for theassessment of critical thinking skills.In this presentation we will review, compare and contrast popular models for critical thinking used inengineering (The Cornell­Illinois Model, the Paul­Elder Model and the CLA Holistic Model)  and thecorresponding assessments for each model (The Cornell Level Z, the International Critical Thinking Testand the Collegiate Learning Assessment) with the critical thinking framework constructed from thecommon principles of MEAs and the MEA as an assessment instrument.  Considerable discussion willinvolve examining the practicality, accuracy and sustainability of the assessment tools for evaluatingcritical thinking within the engineering discipline, providing a review of recent studies using theseassessments, and recent research by the authors. Also, we will discuss the suitability and alignment ofthe selected critical thinking models for instructional use in engineering. Lastly, the research team willdiscuss the advantages and disadvantages of using MEAs as a method for the consequent developmentand assessment of students’ critical thinking skills.

Kaupp, J. A., & Frank, B. M. (2014, June), Practical, Authentic and Sustainable Development and Assessment of Critical Thinking in Engineering through Model Eliciting Activities Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22922

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