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Reassessing Design Goals: Using Design Projects To Meet Assessment Goals

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.520.1 - 5.520.13

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Jeffrey L. Newcomer

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Session 1625

Reassessing Design Goals: Using Design Projects to Meet Assessment Goals Jeffrey L. Newcomer, Ph.D. Engineering Technology Department Western Washington University Bellingham, WA 98225-9086


The ability to set and assess desired student learning outcomes is key not only to maintaining ac- creditation, but to providing students with a high quality education as well. This paper discusses using integrated design projects to meet student learning objectives and also to provide assess- ment material for measuring the level of student achievement. A description of the approach is followed by a detailed discussion of a Machine Design course developed using this method. Machine Design is a technical elective for senior Manufacturing Engineering Technology stu- dents at Western Washington University. This course contains a reverse engineering/redesign project that reinforces technical material and develops students’ teamwork, oral communication, and project management skills, as well as other desired skills. For comparison, briefer examples of other courses from freshman to senior level utilizing integrated design projects are also pro- vided. The approach discussed by this paper has been very useful for developing courses to ad- dress specific desired student learning outcomes.


EC2000 and proposed new TAC/ABET criteria have provided an impetus to provide a more co- herent assessment of programs and the achievement of student learning outcomes.1,2 While the assessment of student learning outcomes is challenging, it is extremely useful for educators to get a fresh look at the skills their graduates possess. Once assessment is underway, it is not un- common to discover that graduates’ skills in certain areas are not as strong as initially thought. One approach to address shortcomings in student learning outcomes is to utilize design projects and other realistic, open-ended problems. Carefully planned and integrated design projects can be used to both enhance and document student learning.

Whether it is solving new problems or finding new solutions to old problems, design is at the core of engineering. Despite this, engineering education moved from engineering design to en- gineering science in the years following World War II, only to begin to ebb back toward a design emphasis in the early 1980s. The movement back to design began slowly, but soon gained mo- mentum with the addition of capstone design courses in many programs. By the late 1980s, cap- stone courses had become common and it had become clear to engineering educators that design education could not begin during students’ senior year. Today most programs have some kind of design course at the freshman or sophomore level to introduce students to the process of solving

Newcomer, J. L. (2000, June), Reassessing Design Goals: Using Design Projects To Meet Assessment Goals Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri.

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