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Work in Progress: Collaborative and Reflective Learning in Engineering Programs

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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

Computers in Education Poster Session

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1700.1 - 22.1700.15



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Paper Authors


Neelam Soundarajan Ohio State University

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Dr. Soundarajan is a faculty member in the Computer Science & Engineering Department at Ohio State. His interests include topics in Software Engineering and Engineering Education.

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Work-in-Progress: Collaborative and Reflective Learning in Engineering ProgramsAbstractThe importance of well developed team-working skills among engineering graduates is widelyrecognized. Similarly, reflective or metacognitive skills that enable a student to reflect on herunderstanding of specific items of knowledge including any weaknesses in that understanding, aswell as the ability to relate specific items of knowledge to new concepts that she is in the processof understanding, are essential for the continued, life-long growth of the individual as she goesfrom being a student to a practicing professional.Most engineering programs have introduced team projects into their curricula, many starting fromthe first year of the curriculum and culminating in a team-based capstone design project.However, as Johnson and Johnson (1990) note, “simply placing students in groups and tellingthem to work together [which is essentially what many programs have done] does not in itselfpromote higher achievement”. What is needed, instead, is carefully structured activities for thegroups that will help students improve their teamwork skills. Similarly, several programs, with thegoal of improving their reflective and lifelong learning skills, have required students to maintainportfolios of their work so that they can reflect on the material they have previously learned. But,again, such requirements, by themselves, do not help students develop their reflective skills. Whatis needed, instead, are carefully structured activities that help students to easily see the relationbetween aspects of a given learning activity and particular aspects of specific, earlier activities intheir curriculum, enable students to review their understanding of those earlier activities, and tobuild on that understanding in a manner appropriate to the current activity.In this paper, the author reports on an innovative approach to developing both team skills as wellas reflective skills in the context of specific learning tasks in the engineering curriculum as part ofthe Computer Science and Engineering program in the author’s university. Appropriatelydeployed computing and IT mechanisms play a central role in facilitating essential components ofthe approach. The power of IT mechanisms to facilitate collaborative learning has been welldemonstrated by such work as CSILE (Scardamalia et al., 1994) and CoWeb (Guzdial et al.,1999). What is missing so far is integrating such approaches with knowledge-centered approachessuch as learning objects (Wiley, 2002) in the context of an undergraduate engineering curriculumand evaluate how effective the resulting approach is in developing students’ reflective andcollaborative skills. The paper considers details of how these tasks are addressed in the innovativeapproach presented. The approach also provides, as described in the paper, simple metrics thatcan be used to measure the extent to which students acquire these skills. The paper situates theapproach in the widely acclaimed how people learn framework (Bransford et al., 2000;Pellegrino, 2006).ReferencesJ Bransford et al. How people learn. National Academy Press, 2000.M Guzdial et al. Using a CSCL-driven shift to educational reform. Proc. of Computer support for collaborative learning, pp. 1–25. Int. Soc. of Learning Sc., 1999.DW Johnson, RT Johnson. Cooperative learning and achievement. In Cooperative learning: theory and practice, pp. 23–37. Praeger, 1990.J Pellegrino. Rethinking and redesigning curriculum, instruction, and assessment. National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006.M Scardamalia et al. CSILE project. In Classroom lessons: Integrating cognitive theory and classroom practice, pp. 201–208. MIT Press, 1994.D Wiley. The instructional use of learning objects. Ass. for Instructional Technology, 2002.

Soundarajan, N. (2011, June), Work in Progress: Collaborative and Reflective Learning in Engineering Programs Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18419

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