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Using a Mock Hearing to Engage Students in Critical Thinking

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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

FPD II: Increasing Engagement and Motivation of First-Year Students

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1602.1 - 22.1602.13



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Paper Authors


James E. Lewis University of Louisville

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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.

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David Wheatley

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Using a Mock Hearing to Engage Students in Critical ThinkingAbstractCase studies are used in the Introduction to Engineering course as a way for incoming studentsto experience and evaluate examples of various engineering activities. A major objective of thecase studies is to expose students to some aspects of the modern practice of engineering, namely:teamwork, problem and data analysis, design creation, presentation and defense of a designedsolution, and professional ethics. The case study work is carefully structured to engage studentsin the engineering activities of critical thinking and analysis of a complex problem. Highlytechnical aspects of engineering requiring training not yet received by the students are avoided.A common case study used in engineering training is the examination of the failure of theskywalk at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City. This failure is beneficial for incomingstudents because the technical reason for the failure is straightforward and easily understood.However, understanding how the deficient walkway supports were allowed to be constructed andinstalled is challenging. Since most incoming students have little knowledge of the complexrelationship of the design, fabrication, and construction steps in projects, some instruction in theroles and responsibilities of each entity is presented and discussed with the students at thebeginning of this work.In prior use of this case study in the Introduction to Engineering course, students were asked toread published papers reporting on this event, formulate an opinion on the party most responsiblefor the failure, and write a paper explaining and defending this opinion. These efforts weresomewhat successful but seemed to fall short of truly engaging students in the difficult work ofdelving into the details, developing a full understanding of the problem, and logically reaching adefensible conclusion. In fall semester of 2009, the approach was modified to include a mockhearing for the Professional Engineering Board of Licensure. The mock hearing allowed thestudents to assume the roles of the involved entities (owner, fabricator, project engineer, etc.) andrepresent each of these entities at the hearing. This paper presents a discussion of the modifiedapproach used as well as the impact on class interest, enthusiasm and student perceptions.

Lewis, J. E., & Wheatley, D. (2011, June), Using a Mock Hearing to Engage Students in Critical Thinking Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18699

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