Asee peer logo

Undergraduate Engineering Students and Critical Thinking: A Preliminary Analysis

Download Paper |


2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Educational Research and Methods Potpourri II

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1566.1 - 22.1566.10



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


James E. Lewis University of Louisville

visit author page

James E. Lewis, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals in the J. B. Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville. His research interests include parallel and distributed computer systems, cryptography, engineering education, undergraduate retention and technology (Tablet PCs) used in the classroom.

visit author page

author page

Cathy Bays

Download Paper |


Undergraduate Engineering Students and Critical Thinking: A Preliminary AnalysisAbstractIn 2007, the University of XXXX began implementation of their multi-year QualityEnhancement Plan (QEP) Ideas to Action (i2a): Using Critical Thinking to Foster StudentLearning and Community Engagement which focuses on improving the critical thinking skills ofundergraduate students and more effectively preparing them to contribute to society. The Pauland Elder critical thinking framework was selected to serve as the framework for i2a initiatives.In addition to the QEP, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)revised the accreditation criteria in 2000 to require program assessment according to elevenoutcomes that all require critical thinking skills. Critical thinking can be incorporated intoengineering classes in a variety of ways including writing assignments, active learning strategies,project-based design experiences, and course redesign. Clearly, accurately, and consistentlyassessing critical thinking across engineering courses can be challenging.The XXXXX School of Engineering began revising core courses in the undergraduatecurriculum to align with goals and objectives of i2a and the ABET criteria. As a common coursefor all entering engineering students, ENGR 100 - Introduction to Engineering, was the logicalcourse to introduce critical thinking to engineering students and to prepare them for the criticalthinking demands they will experience in their future discipline specific courses and careers.Another course common to all engineering disciplines at XXXXX School is ENGR 205 -Differential Equations for Engineering, this course is typically taken during the student’ssophomore year. These two courses provide the foundation for this study.A multi-year research study was designed to assess the critical thinking skills of undergraduateengineering students as they progress through the engineering program. The specific researchquestion is, “How do the critical thinking skills of undergraduate engineering students change asthey matriculate through the engineering program?” A total of three undergraduate engineeringstudent cohorts will be followed from their freshman through senior year. Data is beingcollected on one assignment in each of the four years that the students progress through theengineering curriculum. Assessments of critical thinking include students’ pre and postresponses to a faculty developed critical thinking assessment, students’ scores on a criticalthinking assignment, and independent faculty ratings of students’ critical thinking skills on theselected assignment using a faculty developed critical thinking rubric. This paper will present acomparison of critical thinking data from the freshman course assignment across two cohorts ofstudents. Additionally, critical thinking data will be presented across two years for the initialcohort of students. Based on this preliminary data analysis, course changes and implications forfaculty will be included in the presentation.

Lewis, J. E., & Bays, C. (2011, June), Undergraduate Engineering Students and Critical Thinking: A Preliminary Analysis Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18493

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: © 2011 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