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Privileging Learning Over Numbers: Developing an Alternative Student Assessment in Engineering

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Alternatives to Traditional Assessment

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Eleazar Marquez Rice University

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Eleazar Marquez is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Rice University.

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Samuel Garcia Jr. Texas State University

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Dr. Samuel García Jr. serves as a NASA Educator Professional Development Specialist and Assistant Professor of Practice for the LBJ Institute for Education and Research at Texas State University.

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In this research study, a new model to assess student performance and academic learning in engineering disciplines is proposed with the intention of shifting a grade driven mentality into a learning-oriented mindset. The rational for this model of assessment is to disrupt normalized assessment practices in higher education, reframe student thinking regarding learning and acquisition of knowledge, and encourage students to engage in coursework in meaningful ways. Unfortunately, grades in higher education have become a primary focal point for many students as a means to secure internship opportunities, undergraduate research, post-graduation employment, and graduate school acceptance into desired institutions. The downside of such a grade-based orientation is that anxiety, stress, and memorization have overtaken the essence of attending higher education to acquire valuable knowledge and skills needed to become a well-trained professional. 88% of the students surveyed in this study memorize course material in order to pass any sort of assignment, which means that student learning and retention of fundamental principles are at risk. As such, the authors have developed a preliminary model in which students receive an assessment sheet for every homework assignment and exam rather than a grade. This assessment sheet provides detailed feedback on the procedures/calculations done correctly and the procedures/calculations done incorrectly, and it is based point-scale from 1 to 4: (4) flawless work, (3) quality work, (2) average work, and (1) needs improvement. This assessment sheet is targeted to increase student awareness on the technical areas in which they need to improve and provide opportunities for continuous growth and successful progress. Once students receive their assignments, they have to option to revise their work and correct any errors. Survey results from this study reveal that this alternative student assessment relieves pressure and helps counteract self-inflicted stress and anxiety, while promoting student efficacy and increased competence and knowledge of engineering content and principles.

Marquez, E., & Garcia, S. (2020, June), Privileging Learning Over Numbers: Developing an Alternative Student Assessment in Engineering Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35083

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