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Undergraduate Engineers Engaging and Reflecting in a Professional Practice Simulation

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1567.1 - 22.1567.11



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Paper Authors


Cynthia M. D'Angelo University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Cynthia D’Angelo, Ph.D. has a background in physics and science education. She has always been interested in improving science instruction and most recently, using simulations and games to help facilitate learning. Among other things, she is interested in how students make use of multimedia representations of scientific concepts in games. She is currently the research director for the Epistemic Games Group at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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Naomi C. Chesler University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Naomi C. Chesler is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering with an affiliate appointment in Educational Psychology. Her research interests include vascular biomechanics, hemodynamics and cardiac function as well as the factors that motivate students to pursue and persist in engineering careers, with a focus on women and under-represented minorities.

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David Williamson Shaffer University of Wisconsin, Madison

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David Williamson Shaffer is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in the Department of Educational Psychology and a Game Scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. Before coming to the University of Wisconsin, he was a teacher, teacher-trainer, curriculum developer, and game designer. Dr. Shaffer studies how new technologies change the way people think and learn, and his most recent book is How Computer Games Help Children Learn.

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Golnaz Arastoopour University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Golnaz is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Before becoming interested in education, she studied Mechanical Engineering and Spanish. Golnaz has also worked as a computer science instructor, high school mathematics teacher, and STEM curriculum designer. Her research interests are how technology can be used as an effective and engaging teaching tool, specifically in engineering education.

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Undergraduate Engineers Engaging and Reflecting in a Professional Practice SimulationWe have developed a novel computer simulation game based on authentic engineering practicesand are using it with first-year engineering undergraduates to supply them with a more completeand accurate understanding of the engineering profession. The game is student-focused in that itis tailored to the newest generation of engineering students who are more computer literate,electronically connected, and simulation game-oriented than any prior generation. The game alsois epistemic frame-based in that it seeks to teach and assess the degree to which students acquirethe skills, knowledge, values, identity, and epistemology (i.e., the epistemic frame) of theengineering profession.Prior work has shown that a key step in developing the epistemic frame of many professions,especially those that require innovation, is some form of professional practicum [1,2], which isan environment in which a learner takes professional action in a supervised setting and thenreflects on the results with peers and mentors. Skills and knowledge become more and moreclosely tied as the student learns to see the world using the epistemic frame of the profession.Examples include capstone design courses in undergraduate engineering programs, medicalinternships and residencies, or almost any graduate program in STEM disciplines. Prior work hasalso shown that epistemic games—learning environments where students game-play to developthe epistemic frame of a profession—increases students’ understanding of and interest in theprofession [3-5].In this paper, we present preliminary results of Nephrotex, a novel epistemic game in whichundergraduate engineering students role-play as professional engineers-in-training in order todevelop the skills, knowledge, values, identity, and epistemology of engineers. First yearengineering students participated in Nephrotex as a virtual internship simulation as part of anintroductory engineering course. Students in two modules (N = 25 and N = 20) engaged in thegame. Multiple types of data were collected: (1) pre/post data about their interest in engineeringas a career, specific engineering content, and their engagement in the simulation; (2) all emailsand assignments from the game; and (3) all chat communications with their teammates and amentor. These interactions within the game were coded for the presence of epistemic frameelements that identify professional practice.One aspect of the simulation that seemed especially helpful for students was the reflectionmeetings that each group of students had with their online mentor at specific points in thesimulation. The mentors guided the students through questions designed to illicit the students’actions in the game and project how they should proceed going forward. These meetings wererich sources of the professional engineering epistemic frame elements that the game is trying tohelp the students develop.The full paper will discuss in more detail the impact of these reflection meetings, the pre/postdata, and the overall epistemic frames that first year engineering students developed throughtheir engagement in this epistemic game.1. Schon, D.A., The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. 1983, New York: Basic Books. x, 374.2. Schon, D.A., Educating the reflective practitioner: Toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions. 1987, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.3. Shaffer, D.W., How Computer Games Help Children Learn. 2007, New York: Palgrave.4. Svarovsky, G.N. and D.W. Shaffer, SodaConstructing knowledge through exploratoids. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 2007. 44(1): p. 133-153.5. Bagley, E.A.S. and D.W. Shaffer, When people get in the way: Promoting civic thinking through epistemic gameplay. International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations, 2009. 1(1): p. 36-52.

D'Angelo, C. M., & Chesler, N. C., & Shaffer, D. W., & Arastoopour, G. (2011, June), Undergraduate Engineers Engaging and Reflecting in a Professional Practice Simulation Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--19003

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