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Reflective Practices Of Engineering Capstone Design Teams

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1025.1 - 15.1025.17



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Paper Authors

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Robert Gerlick Washington State University

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Denny Davis Washington State University

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Shane Brown Washington State University Orcid 16x16

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Michael Trevisan Washington State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Reflective Practices of Engineering Capstone Design Teams


Reflection is widely understood as a critical component of learning, especially learning from experience. Effective professionals learn from experiences and use this knowledge when encountering similar or more complex problems. The engineering capstone design course provides an excellent opportunity for students to gain experience in design, but experience alone does not guarantee learning of skills and knowledge, or the ability to transfer this knowledge to new situations. Researchers and theorists have long trumpeted the value of reflective practice as a differentiating factor in the effectiveness of practitioners. As shown by the growing number of publications on the topic in engineering education literature, teaching students the process and value of reflection is increasingly recognized as an essential component of engineering design education.

To support teaching and learning of reflection in engineering capstone design courses, this study seeks to understand how students reflect—individually and as a team—as they are engaged in a design project, specifically in relation to teamwork. This study is part of a larger NSF supported project engaged in the development of capstone design course assessment instruments. Therefore, a second aim is to examine the effectiveness of the instruments in facilitating student and team reflective practice. The research questions for this study include: (1) What are the teamwork-related reflective practices of engineering capstone design teams and individuals? (i.e., what teamwork issues do they reflect on; for what purposes; how; what factors affect reflection; and what are the outcomes?), and (2) What impacts do “prompted” (instructor assigned) reflective assessments have on a team’s overall reflective practice?

This qualitative study uses an analytic induction approach to analyzing data and for developing a model of student reflective practices, based on initial conceptual reflection models. Participants include members from two multidisciplinary design teams. Data collection methods include: (1) team meeting observations, (2) interviews (individual and team focus groups), and (3) review of student reflective assignments prompted by instructors. Data is being collected throughout the 2009-2010 academic year, spanning the complete project of each participating team. Results will be based on team reflective practices within the context of each of the three major design phases—problem scoping, concept development, and solution development. Additionally, the longitudinal aspects of the study allow for individual and team growth, regarding teamwork- reflection, to be analyzed and presented. Currently, data collection has begun for the first design phase, problem scoping, and this paper will present initial findings spanning this phase.


Reflection is often stated as an important element in learning, especially learning from experience. The concept of reflection, though, is not clearly defined, and approaches to teaching, learning, and assessing it are reported as significant challenges in education. Part of this challenge, at least, results from the context-specific operationalization of reflection as well as the

Gerlick, R., & Davis, D., & Brown, S., & Trevisan, M. (2010, June), Reflective Practices Of Engineering Capstone Design Teams Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16268

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