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Understanding a New Paradigm for Engineering Science Education Using Knowledge about Student Learning

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First Year Programs Division Poster Session: The Best Place to Really Talk about First-Year Education

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1618.1 - 26.1618.21



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Paper Authors


Donald E. Richards Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Dr. Richards is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and teaches in the area of thermal-fluid sciences. He earned his mechanical engineering degrees at Kansas State University (B.S.), Iowa State University (M.S.), and The Ohio State University (Ph.D.). Prior to joining Rose-Hulman in 1988, he was on the faculty at The Ohio State University. In 1998, he joined Kenneth Wark as co-author of Thermodynamics (6th Ed.) published by McGraw-Hill. Since 1995 he has taught in Rose-Hulman's innovative, integrated Sophomore Engineering Curriculum, and his textbook, "Basic Engineering Science--A Systems, Accounting, and Modeling Approach," is used in this curriculum. In addition to teaching, he also served two years as the Director of the Center for the Practice and Scholarship of Education at Rose-Hulman.

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Michael A. Collura University of New Haven

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Michael A. Collura, professor of chemical engineering at the University of New Haven, received his B.S. in chemical engineering from Lafayette College and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering from Lehigh University. After several years in industry, he moved to the academic world, where he has taught engineering for more than 30 years. He is currently the Buckman Professor of Chemical Engineering in the Tagliatela College of Engineering. His professional interests include the application of computers to process modeling and control (particularly for energy conversion processes), engineering education research (student self-assessment, developing conceptual understanding, multidisciplinary learning models), and reform of engineering education.

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Understanding a New Paradigm for Engineering Science Education using Theories of Student Learning [Paper Type -- Other]Over the last thirty years much attention has been given to improving the education of engineer-ing students; however, much of this effort has been devoted to understanding and improving theclassroom environment. Project-based courses in the first year and industry-sponsored senior de-sign projects have become increasingly common. An engineering graduate of the 1960's and1970's would surely notice a change in classroom practice, such as active and cooperative learn-ing techniques; however, the core engineering curricula still exhibit courses and a curriculumstructure that would be familiar to a graduate of even earlier years. The inertia of course contentand curricula is also demonstrated by the table of contents of popular textbooks for standard en-gineering courses. Although the look of today's textbooks (and other electronic media) are a farcry from the black-and-white stick figure drawings and 3-4-5 triangles of the past, content andorganization are largely unchanged. In a recent request for proposals entitled “RevolutionizingEngineering Departments,” the NSF’s Directorate for Engineering has identified the middle twoyears of engineering curricula, which typically focus on engineering science, as a “target point”for reform, citing the lack of attention to this segment in past reform efforts.This paper examines a unique framework for teaching engineering science courses through thelens of current theories about student learning. Many of the key ideas in this framework have re-cently been singled out as core ideas in the new K-12 Science Education Framework. Two differ-ent institutions have 30 years combined experience with using this approach, and at each institu-tion, the framework is introduced in a foundational course. These courses will be the focus ofthis paper.The foundational course at each institution is part of a larger integrated engineering-science cur-riculum that emphasizes fundamental principles, e.g. conservation of mass and momentum, andde-emphasizes traditional course boxes, e.g. fluid mechanics, dynamics, thermodynamics. Stress-ing a common framework for presenting and using the fundamental principles, the course em-phasizes the construction of problem-specific solutions not just "plug and chug" procedures us-ing memorized formulas. These courses have been successfully taught for many years (10 yearsand 20 years, respectively) to sophomore engineering students from a range of disciplines. Theteaching faculty, who have a range of disciplinary backgrounds, have also benefited from thesecourses and are some of the most ardent supporters. And, as hoped, many of the ideas have beencarried into upper-division courses.Although the courses were originally developed to stress content integration, the current litera-ture on student learning, especially in engineering and physics, provides several new lenses forexamining the course content and structure. The original goal of integrating material has pro-vided a structure that focuses on threshold concepts. The underlying structure of the courses alsoseeks to promote conceptual understanding. The use of a common problem solving approach anda common structure for fundamental principles seeks to help students organize their knowledgeand move along the "novice-expert" continuum for problem solvers. These and other ideas willbe explored in this paper. 1 of 2The goal of the paper is to present a critical evaluation of how these courses, originally devel-oped to support an integration paradigm, have become an integral part of a curriculum becausethey are consistent with current ideas about student learning. Through this discussion, the authorsalso hope to encourage others to consider new approaches to organizing engineering courses andcurricula. 2 of 2

Richards, D. E., & Collura, M. A. (2015, June), Understanding a New Paradigm for Engineering Science Education Using Knowledge about Student Learning Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24954

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