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Redesigning an Introductory Engineering Course to Address Student Perceptions About Engineering as a Profession and Field of Study

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2017 FYEE Conference


Daytona Beach, Florida

Publication Date

August 6, 2017

Start Date

August 6, 2017

End Date

August 8, 2017

Conference Session

Enrollment, Instruction and Pedagogy - Focus on Classroom Practices

Tagged Topics

Diversity and FYEE Division - Paper Submission

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Paper Authors


David M. Feinauer P.E. Norwich University

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Dr. Feinauer is an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the Freshman Engineering Coordinator at Norwich University. His scholarly work spans a number of areas related to engineering education, including P-12 engineering outreach, the first-year engineering experience, and incorporating innovation and entrepreneurship practice in the engineering classroom. Additionally, he has research experience in the areas of automation and control theory, and system identification. His work has been published through the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE); he is an active member of both organizations. He serves as advisor to the student entrepreneurship club and as the State Partner for the FIRST LEGO League Program—a nationally recognized program that incorporates robotics with innovation and community engagement. He holds a PhD and BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Kentucky.

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In the first course of an introductory engineering sequence, students from multiple engineering disciplines and diverse college-preparatory experiences are introduced to professional and technical concepts from various engineering disciplines. The course presented a great breadth of topics through a series of tutorials, laboratory experiments, and lectures. When reflecting and commenting on the course, students expressed frustration with a “lack of accomplishment” and “jumping around”—indicators of low self-efficacy beliefs. Further analysis determined that although many quality standalone exercises existed, a guiding narrative for the course was lacking. Over multiple years, the course was redesigned using a pedagogical approach that incorporated research-based instructional practices with a goal of helping the students grow in their understanding of engineering as a general field of study. The motivating principles behind the redesign involved integrally connecting the presentation and practice of both technical and professional engineering skills, introducing exercises perceived as real-world and relevant, and refocusing the course on skills and principles common to engineers of all disciplines. This paper details a restructured curricular model that was designed to be more easily attuned to contextual and audience-specific needs, address students’ perspectives on the relevancy of an engineering education, and improve the consistency of the student experience. Central elements of the evolutionary course redesign and a summary of the knowledge-base that informed them are presented. Measurement of student attitudes for four cohorts are discussed and compared to a cohort from before the redesign. The measurements reflect improved student confidence in selection of major, and improved understanding of the impact that engineers have in larger societal contexts among the cohorts.

Feinauer, D. M. (2017, August), Redesigning an Introductory Engineering Course to Address Student Perceptions About Engineering as a Profession and Field of Study Paper presented at 2017 FYEE Conference, Daytona Beach, Florida.

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