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"What Works" In Engineering Education? A Meta Analysis Of Vanth/Erc Biomedical Engineering Modules

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

BME Assessment and the VaNTH ERC

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Page Count


Page Numbers

12.3.1 - 12.3.8



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Paper Authors


David Cordray Vanderbilt University

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David S. Cordray PhD is Professor of Psychology and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University. He is currently the Thrust Leader in Assessment and Evaluation for the VaNTH ERC. Professor Cordray has written extensively on research and evaluation methodology in education and human services areas. He has conducted experimental, quasi-experimental and meta-analytic assessments of intervention effectiveness in education, health, welfare, and other human service areas.

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Thomas Harris Vanderbilt University

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Jennifer Gilbert is graduate student in the Department of Special Education within Peabody College at Vanderbilt University.

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Jennifer Gilbert

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Thomas R. Harris MD PhD is the Orrin Henry Ingram Distinguished Professor of Engineering and Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Medicine at Vanderbilt University. He is currently Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. His current interests focus on the development of learning sciences and learning technology for bioengineering. He is currently the director of the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center in Bioengineering Technologies.

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

“What Works” in Engineering Education? A Meta-analysis of VaNTH/ERC Biomedical Engineering Modules


The Vanderbilt-Northwestern-Texas-Harvard/MIT Engineering Research Center (VaNTH/ERC) for Bioengineering Educational Technologies has undertaken a series of studies to examine the effects of instructional innovation on learning outcomes. In this paper we summarize the nature, scope and results of these assessments. In the spirit of identifying evidence-based practices in education, we present estimates of the overall and conditional effects from 28 studies and sub-studies reported in 19 evaluation studies. The results suggest that VaNTH-sponsored innovations are effective, although some of the effects may be exaggerated or understated due to technical and procedural problems. This paper identifies which effects are trustworthy and which require additional examination before they can be incorporated (or not) into the knowledge-base on “What Works” in biomedical engineering education.

I. Introduction

Established in 1999 with a grant from the National Science Foundation, the Vanderbilt-Northwestern-Texas-Harvard/MIT Engineering Research Center (VaNTH/ERC) for Bioengineering Educational Technologies is aimed at improving the short- and long-term learning outcomes of bioengineering education at many levels with a particular emphasis on undergraduates. To achieve this goal, the center has enlisted teams composed of faculty in bioengineering, learning sciences, learning technology and assessment and evaluation to develop innovative instructional strategies and to test their effectiveness relative to traditional instruction in bioengineering (See Harris, Bransford & Brophy1). These innovations are based on the model of learning and instruction described by Bransford, Brown & Cocking2 in a volume issued by the National Academy of Sciences entitled How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (popularly known as the “HPL model”). Using the HPL model to guide the creation of innovative instructional materials, over 60 modules and course enhancements have been developed within VaNTH covering a variety of bioengineering areas. This paper examines the quality of the evidence underlying VaNTH-sponsored studies and summarizes the quantitative effects of these innovations that have been derived from experimental and quasi-experimental evaluation efforts to date.

A primary motivator behind this paper is to contribute to a relatively new global interest in identifying evidence-based practices (see Cottingham, Maynard & Stagner3, Slavin4). In doing so, we follow an evolving set of guidelines and practices that are being developed by the major organization responsible for conducting similar types of reviews. We have drawn from practices espoused by the Cochrane Collaboration (see in medicine, the Campbell Collaboration in social and educational areas (see, the Institute of Education Sciences’ (IES) What Works Clearinghouse (see, and the Coalition for Evidence-based Practices (see hhtp://

Cordray, D., & Harris, T., & Gilbert, J. (2007, June), "What Works" In Engineering Education? A Meta Analysis Of Vanth/Erc Biomedical Engineering Modules Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2434

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