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Scope Management For Independent Study Projects

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1001.1 - 8.1001.7



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Paper Authors

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James Hoskin

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Ronald Welch

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

Session 2793

Scope Management for Independent Study projects

James R. Hoskin, Ronald W. Welch Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering United States Military Academy at West Point

Abstract Independent study projects serve as avenues for mature students to participate in detailed study projects on topics of their own interest. These study projects foster student creativity and self- motivated, autonomous work, which frequently results in a student’s best work. Often, these projects are inter-collegiate competitions, independent research, or a community or business sponsored project. Ultimately, these independent study projects serve as a tool to inspire young students in their chosen profession and strengthen a commitment to lifelong learning. Unfortunately, this opportunity for autonomous, creative, inspired learning may become a source of frustration and disappointment for both the student and faculty advisor. Sources of frustration are many. A likely source is the difference in expectations held by the faculty advisor and student. Faculty advisors and students alike feel additional frustration when a time demanding, quality product is produced, but it isn’t what the faculty advisor really had in mind. Faculty advisors must remember they are working with a student educated usually in a formal classroom environment where expectations are translated in the form of design projects, home works, and exams. Their grade is based on these events. It is universally understood that these graded requirements constitute a contract between professor and student. Typically the student has little input into the contract, but signs his or her name when they sign up for the course. This paper discusses the beneficial elements in a faculty advisor-student contract for independent study projects. A well-defined contract is often the key to a rewarding independent study.

I. Introduction Independent study projects are often designed for students who demonstrate the ability to work autonomously and the creativity to work on projects that are open-ended and sometimes research oriented. These projects are inherently different from the organized, professor led, contemporary courses. The independent study projects are also closer to the autonomous environment students will experience as engineers working in their chosen profession. Research or student projects with industry involvement become an invaluable non-attribution glimpse of life as a professional.

Some students excel in the classroom and on independent study projects. However, for many, an independent study project is a student’s first experience with truly independent work after twelve to fifteen years of guided schooling. Students and professors alike must dedicate time prior to registering for the independent study project to ensure that all understand the expectations and the scope of the project. A faculty advisor-student contract is an efficient means to develop the necessary boundaries.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Hoskin, J., & Welch, R. (2003, June), Scope Management For Independent Study Projects Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12538

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2003 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015