June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Design in Engineering Education
24.1345.1 - 24.1345.10
Using Standards-based Grading to Effectively Assess Project-based Design CoursesStandards-based grading (SBG) is an alternative to traditional score-based gradingsystems that allows an instructor to provide assessment linked to course objectives.Course syllabi typically list course objectives that are rarely discussed again beyond thefirst day of class. SBG ties assessment throughout a course with these objectives, whilealso providing clear, meaningful feedback, fairness and transparency in the gradingprocess, and useful program assessment. Objectives are skills-based and specific, whilefeedback is directed at exactly which skills the students need to improve.Previous use of SBG in engineering courses has proven to be taxing on the instructoraccept for instances when students practice what they learn. Project-based design coursesalign well with SBG because their nature demands repeat assessment of fundamentallearning objectives. The following study investigates the use of SBG in two cornerstonedesign courses with similar learning objectives at different ABET accredited engineeringprograms. The first course was a 4-credit, 2-semester introduction to engineering for first-year students at a small, private liberal arts college (N = 45). The second was a 1semester, engineering project-based design course for second-year students at a large,public university (N = 60). This course offering is one course in a string of projectcourses required by students in this program each semester.Students at both institutions were asked to complete a survey investigating perceivedvalue toward SBG. The survey is designed to report scores relating to intrinsic (interest,enjoyment), attainment (contribution to self), utility (advantages toward personal goals),and cost (sacrifices required). Overall, students reported that the standards based gradingsystem has higher value (2.87) than cost (2.30) on a 4-point scale (p <0.001). At the smallliberal arts institution, students were more focused on attainment value, while students atthe large research university were more focused on utility value. Students at the smallliberal arts college also gave generally higher ratings to both value and cost, with asmaller (but still statistically significant) average difference between the two (0.34 and0.81, respectively).Students at both institutions were additionally queried to assess impact of the course onengineering design self-efficacy. Students reported higher self-efficacy in design-basedobjectives after the course, with an average self-efficacy increase of 15-20 points on a100-point scale.These results suggest that standards based grading is a valuable approach to assessmentof engineering students in early cornerstone project-based design courses at a range ofinstitution types. Differences expressed by the student populations, especially regardingperceived cost, may be due to the instructor’s lack of familiarity with the grading system.This limitation is hypothesized to decrease over time with practice.
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