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Using A Structuredness Instrument To Characterize End Of Course Projects

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Engineering Education Research and Assessment I

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1398.1 - 10.1398.11



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Paper Authors

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James Houdeshell

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

Using a Structuredness Instrument to Characterize End of Course Projects James Jay Houdeshell National Center for Manufacturing Education at Sinclair Community College

Abstract A course culminating project, a popular instructional activity in engineering and engineering technology courses, typically provides students with either a rewarding or a frustrating experience. Many times professors, in order to bring real industry practice into the classroom, ask students to solve problems based on complex cases. Depending on the student's familiarity with the project context, a student’s problem solving skills, and the nature of the problem, student success in solving the problem can be limited. Jonassen (1997) provides a foundational basis for defining a problem's nature using the attributes of structuredness, domain specificity, and complexity[1]. Recent research indicates that ill-structured or messy problems require different meta-cognitive processes and problem solving skills, when compared to well-structured problems. Houdeshell (2004) found that using ill- structured transfer activities produced significantly higher student learning than with well- structured transfer problems using an instructional design that supports a scaffolding environment[2]. Clearly then the use of ill-structured problems is desirable when combined within an appropriate instructional design. However, no instrument had been developed to measure problem structuredness. This paper documents the process of developing and testing a structuredness instrument. The validation procedures utilized instructional materials developed within the scope of National Science Foundation DUE-ATE sponsored projects. The materials provide examples of well and ill-structured transfer activities for testing a proposed structuredness instrument. The instrument, based extensively on work done by Jonassen (1997, 2000), defines a structuredness index[1, 3]. An instrument reliability of 0.82 was demonstrated by the analysis of ten instructional transfer activities by three subject matter experts (SME). The activities evaluated included content materials from mathematics, science, business, and engineering technology. Additionally one of the SMEs applied the instrument to the analysis to twenty-two additional activities to determine the potential relationship between structuredness, and Jonassen’s published problem taxonomy (rule, story, decision, troubleshooting, diagnosis-solution, and design). The data supports the relationship between the structuredness index and the problem taxonomy. The impact of this analysis is the verification of the relationship between problem structuredness and taxonomy, the publication of a structuredness instrument, and the reinforcement of the importance of instructional design to enhance student learning

Introduction Ten years ago the National Center for Manufacturing Education (NCME) received funding from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (NSF-ATE) program to develop, pilot test and publish curriculum materials for a competency-based Associate of Applied Science degree, using advanced manufacturing as the focus. This curriculum supports the broad NSF educational goal as stated by Neal Lane, former Director of

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Houdeshell, J. (2005, June), Using A Structuredness Instrument To Characterize End Of Course Projects Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14631

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