June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Design in Engineering Education
15.1034.1 - 15.1034.22
Restructuring a Design Focused Introductory Transportation Engineering Course: An Exploratory Study Using the Threshold Concept Framework
Design is an integral part of engineering courses. Addressing design problems is a challenging task in instruction because of the openness and complexity of these problems. This paper presents an approach in addressing these challenges for an introductory transportation- engineering course, an important part of which is highway design. To address the challenges associated with highway design, a framework proposed by the threshold concepts model was used to identify a candidate-concept for the instructional redesign process. Two major characteristics of threshold concepts, integrativity and transformativity were used to identify horizontal alignment candidate-concept for the highway design process.
Using concept maps generated as guides through the integrativity of learning associated with the horizontal alignment, several adjustments to the structure of lecture materials and project tasks were made. In addition, reflective assessment items were administered after each redesigned instructional task and at the end of the course. Students’ answers to these reflective assessments helped identifying trends associated with the transformativity of horizontal alignment in the context of highway design. The analysis of students’ reflective assessment indicated that horizontal alignment has the potential to be transformative, and therefore, can be a candidate- concept for the activities associated with scaffolding of highway design process.
Streamlining the instructional activities was and will be an ongoing struggle both for instructors, at the classroom level, and administrators, at the institutional level. As each field of knowledge grows, students struggle with their transition from novice to expert in their academic growth. Addressing these struggles is even more stringent for design activities that are typically part of the engineering curriculum. Addressing design problems is and it will be a challenging task in instruction because of the openness and complexity of these problems1.
When scaffolding design activities in their courses instructors typically face challenges in balancing the content, as proposed by various textbooks they use, and the reality of their classroom instruction. That is, quite often instructors find that they have to develop additional instructional steps to address the gap between the existent and the expected levels of prior knowledge and skills their students need to successfully engage in the design activities. The instructor also needs to find ways to include these additional steps within the limited time allocated for that instructional process.
Attempts to address these challenges include the development and implementation of technology-based modules. In transportation engineering, for example, such technology-based modules provided, on one hand, more expertise-based activities for students2 and, on the other hand, moved some of the delivery of the content outside the classroom3.
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