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Towards A Model Of Teaching Expertise In Capstone Design: Development And Validation Of A Preliminary Survey Instrument

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Engineering Design: Implementation and Evaluation

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1269.1 - 15.1269.18



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Paper Authors

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James Pembridge Virginia Tech

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Marie Paretti Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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

Towards a Model of Teaching Expertise in Capstone Design: Development and Validation of a Preliminary Survey Instrument Abstract

Capstone design courses seek to create a transitional environment between school and work by engaging students in collaborative, open-ended projects. These environments present a challenge to capstone faculty because the pedagogies used in such courses may differ significantly from those used in more traditional courses focused on technical content. To date, however, little literature exists to help define these pedagogies or understand teaching expertise in the capstone classroom more broadly. To address this gap, this paper describes the development, validation, and results of a survey instrument to explore capstone teaching, using expertise constructs from the K-12 literature as a starting point. Results from this instrument, distributed as part of a national survey of capstone faculty, suggest that current capstone faculty exhibit expertise traits related to both experience and knowledge, but not those related to social recognition and teacher preparation. The next phase of this study will examine the degree to which these constructs correlate to both specific teaching practices and student learning in the design classroom.


Cognitive approaches to expertise across domains demonstrate that experts think in ways that are qualitatively different from novices, and these differences allow experts to approach problems more efficiently and creatively.1 Experts in any arena tend to recognize patterns and deep structures, conduct extended qualitative analysis of problems, effectively monitor situations, apply well-tuned decision-making practices, and adopt an opportunistic, flexible approach.2 But while researchers have examined expertise across a variety of domains, including the arts, games, athletics, and design, few sustained studies of teacher expertise are currently available. Those that are available focus on K-12 e.g., 3-9; almost no studies examine teaching expertise among university faculty. Yet understanding such expertise is central to improving faculty preparation and professional development. Such understanding also provides an important complement to research that examines effective practices (e.g. active learning, outcomes based assessment models) by identifying how experts deploy those practices to maximum effect. The need to understand faculty expertise may be particularly sharp in design education, which often requires coaching and mentoring in ways that differ from the teaching approaches that have proven successful in traditional engineering classrooms.10

Prior researchers have examined design education from varying perspectives, including national surveys about course structure and management by Todd et al.11 and Howe and Wilbarger12, 13 and a national survey of assessment practices by McKenzie et al.14 In addition, scholars have posited descriptions of both project criteria15 and faculty practices10 based on localized case studies. Design learning has also been examined from multiple perspectives, most notably by researchers at both the Center for Engineering Learning and Teaching e.g., 16-22 and the Transferable Integrated Design Engineering Education project.e.g., 23-29 While such studies contribute to design education, they do not yet provide models of teaching that can systematically support the preparation and development of design faculty.

Pembridge, J., & Paretti, M. (2010, June), Towards A Model Of Teaching Expertise In Capstone Design: Development And Validation Of A Preliminary Survey Instrument Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16138

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