June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.1170.1 - 15.1170.9
Teaching Decision-Making in Engineering: A Review of Textbooks & Teaching Approaches Abstract
Despite the importance of decision-making in engineering, only a limited number of studies investigate how to teach and learn decision-making skills in engineering. We conducted an in-depth content analysis of 1) first-year engineering textbooks and 2) instructional decision-support tools published in ASEE proceedings in the last decade. We discussed our findings in the light of research and theoretical frameworks on decision making. The examination of fourteen books that are commonly used as a textbook in first-year engineering courses revealed that half of these books discussed decision making usually very briefly or as one step in the design process. Twenty-nine percent linked engineering decision making to social and ethical issues (e. g., examination of engineering disasters and historical decisions that led to failures). In addition, two books (14%) discussed decision-making in the context of teams. The review of instructional tools and methods presented by engineering educators at ASEE conferences indicated that decision making is taught and studied in three different approaches: during design projects, using simulations, and through case-based teaching approaches.
In everyday life and at work people make many decisions. Doctors diagnose illnesses and prescribe medicine, teachers identify student knowledge and skills and develop appropriate learning activities, and engineers identify needs and develop technological solutions. From a broad perspective, decision-making can be defined as the act of choosing one option out of many alternatives6 and 21. Dwarakanath and Wallace2 (1995) identified two types of decisions: the first type starts by generating several alternatives and a comparison of these against each other. The second type of decision-making process involves an evaluation of an alternative against criteria as it is generated. Engineering decisions generally require an understanding of systems and involves the goal of design optimization.
Review of Research on Decision-Making
Prior research -making processes3 and 16 has been conducted with diverse professionals such as doctors7, nurses10, teachers5, and engineers20. However, while much research has been conducted with professionals, studies focusing on the -making processes are limited. Interestingly, researchers in both engineering design (conducting research on practitioners) and engineering education (focusing on research in student learning processes) call for more research in this area20and 22. The National Science Foundation and the National Academy of Engineering (2001) also address the need for more focus on decision-making in the context of design.
Purzer, S., & Chen, J. (2010, June), Teaching Decision Making In Engineering: A Review Of Textbooks And Teaching Approaches Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. https://peer.asee.org/15942
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