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The Parallel Curriculum Model: Understanding Engineering Educational Innovations To Optimize Student Learning

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Curricula of the Past, Present, and Future

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1316.1 - 11.1316.30



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Paper Authors


Yvonne Ng College of St. Catherine

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Yvonne Ng, M.S.M.E., teaches computer science and engineering for non-majors at the College of St. Catherine. Educated as a mechanical and aerospace engineer, she worked in industry as an automation design engineer and contract programmer. She made computer science a more appealing topic for her all-women undergraduate student body by presenting this technically valuable course in a more comprehensive manner. She is currently working with the collegs AS and AAS program to create pathways for students to enter technical colleges and engineering technology programs.

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Lori Maxfield College of St. Catherine

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Lori R. Maxfield, Ph.D., is the Director of Undergraduate and Graduate Education Programs (Initial Licensure) in the Education Department at the College of St. Catherine. She teaches social studies methods for prospective teachers at the elementary, middle school, and senior high levels. At the college-wide level, she serves as a member of the Curriculum Design Team that is working to create core minors that provide and integrated and interdisciplinary focus across the liberal arts and professional studies programs. Her direct experience with the Parallel Curriculum Model includes serving as a National Cadre Curriculum Writer (2002-2003) associated with the Connecticut State Department of Educatios Javits Grant. In this capacity, she worked with other writers to identify and to develop curricular units using the Parallel Curriculum Model.

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

The Parallel Curriculum Model:

Understanding Engineering Education Innovations to Optimize Student Learning

Past ASEE conferences have presented great ideas for teaching engineering. However, all these innovations lack a way to see how they affect the overall education of engineering students. Traditionalists are left wondering if the new ideas are diluting students’ understanding of core engineering and scientific principles. Innovators walk a thin line between educating their students and simply training their students in the simulated “real life” design situations.

Just as innovation in engineering needs well-specified parameters to define the problem and evaluate the results, educational innovations require the same. The Parallel Curriculum Model (PCM) provides a comprehensive format for designing curriculum around key components such as content, assessment, teaching strategies, learning activities, products, resources, and ascending levels of intellectual demand. The most salient feature of PCM rests in the multiple curricular configurations that result from the use of four interrelated and parallel designs for organizing curriculum: Core, Practice, Connections, and Identity. The four parallels offer opportunities to optimize student learning through the creation of a curriculum that is more meaningful, powerful, and engaging in the education of confident and competent engineering professionals. Projects presented at past ASEE conferences are innovative because they address specific parallels, thus fleshing out a student’s overall education. The PCM not only offers a way to see education as a whole, so as to identify the gaps, but also a way to assess and evaluate the effects of innovation on a student’s entire engineering education.

PCM addresses many topics outlined by the Educational Research and Methods Division (ERM) including active and cooperative learning, integrated and non- traditional curricula, life-long learning, new learning models and applications, and the art and science of teaching. This paper explains PCM and how it relates to engineering education, analyzes selected ASEE presentations in relationship to the four parallels, and illustrates how PCM integrates key curriculum components and the four interrelated parallels to create innovative curricular designs in engineering education.

1 Introduction

1.1 Motivation Recent presentations at ASEE conferences showcase innovative courses and projects in engineering programs across the country. These presentations are inspirational for those interested in revising or enhancing their individual courses, departmental curriculum, or engineering program.

Ng, Y., & Maxfield, L. (2006, June), The Parallel Curriculum Model: Understanding Engineering Educational Innovations To Optimize Student Learning Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--92

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: © 2006 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