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The Use Of Student Portfolios In Biological Engineering Instruction

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.437.1 - 2.437.10

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Paper Authors

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Ann D. Christy

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Marybeth Lima

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

Session 1608

The Use of Student Portfolios in Biological Engineering Instruction

Ann D. Christy, Marybeth Lima The Ohio State University/Louisiana State University


The creation of individual student portfolios to document and enhance the learning process has been used with success in various teaching venues (e.g. architecture, fine arts and writing classes). However, the use of portfolios as a learning tool in biological engineering instruction has not been documented in the literature. Student portfolios were listed as a means of assessment under the basic level accreditation criteria for ABET Engineering Criteria 2000. Thus, its relevance as an engineering educational tool is recognized.

In this case study, student portfolios were assigned to students for two courses. The first was Agricultural Engineering 625 (AE 625): Modeling and Design of Biological Systems, taught by A.D. Christy at The Ohio State University. This required senior level course involved the application of transport processes, enzyme kinetics and simulation of plant and animal growth to the analysis and design of biological systems and processes. The second course was Biological Engineering 1252 (BE 1252): Biology in Engineering, taught by M. Lima at Louisiana State University. The objective of this required freshmen level course was to introduce the effects of variability and constraints of biological systems on engineering problem solving and design. In AE 625, portfolios were the primary instrument for evaluating learning, and were used to demonstrate mastery of core competencies identified in the course objectives. Core competencies were established through interviews with future employers and current professionals, and discussion between the instructor and the students taking the course. In BE 1252, portfolios were one of several instruments for evaluating learning, and were used to help students develop their ideas regarding their potential careers as biological engineers.

We have used student portfolios in an effort to initiate a student centered learning. To this end, we have incorporated interactive means, including interviews of practicing engineers, student presentations (oral and written), individual and group design projects, and site visits, while minimizing passive learning approaches such as lecture. The portfolio method encourages students to take greater responsibility for their own learning and makes explicit the life-long nature of engineering education. Our philosophy is that students, given more proactive roles in their own learning process, will better comprehend both biological engineering concepts, and their future roles as practicing biological engineers. In this paper, the methodologies for using portfolios are detailed, the results of applying the portfolio method as an assessment tool in biological engineering are presented, and recommendations for improvement are discussed.

Christy, A. D., & Lima, M. (1997, June), The Use Of Student Portfolios In Biological Engineering Instruction Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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