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Work in Progress: Rubric Development for Year-long Civil Engineering Capstone Projects

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Design in Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1747.1 - 26.1747.27



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Paper Authors


Nirmala Gnanapragasam Seattle University

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Dr. Nirmala Gnanapragasam is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Seattle University. She also serves as the Design Coordinator for the department's capstone program. She is a licensed professional engineer and her areas of interests are geotechnical engineering, professional practice, and pedagogy.

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Nathan E Canney PE Seattle University

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Dr. Canney teaches civil engineering at Seattle University. His research focuses on engineering education, specifically the development of social responsibility in engineering students. Other areas of interest include ethics, service learning, and sustainability education. Dr. Canney received bachelors degrees in Civil Engineering and Mathematics from Seattle University, a masters in Civil Engineering from Stanford University with an emphasis on structural engineering, and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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Work in Progress: Rubric Development for Year-long Civil Engineering Capstone ProjectsProject-based learning pedagogies have been shown to be effective at teaching many of thetechnical and professional skills desired of engineering education programs. Project-basedlearning allows students to engage in more authentic engineering designs, helping to developmany of the technical and professional skills that are desired in engineering education. This typeof approach, however, makes traditional assessment more difficult due to variability in projectcontent, difficulty, and necessary deliverables from team to team.In our engineering program, all seniors engage in year-long, industry sponsored,capstoneprojects with the guidance of both faculty mentors and corporate liaisons. These projects aregenerally conceived of and sponsored by local engineering firms and oftentimes the results ofstudent work form the foundation for final solutions used by the corporate sponsor. Studentswork in team of three to five, developing a project proposal in the first quarter, working throughthe technical solution towards a final report and deliverables at the end of the academic year. Inthe past, achieving consistent assessment of student work has been difficult across the civilengineering projects. Since engineering projects include environmental, general civil, andstructural engineering foci, faculty have found it difficult to accurately assess technical content indisciplines not their own. Additionally, faculty perceptions of Likert scales on report elementshave remained largely individualized, prone to variation due to personal preference. Finally, notall projects are equally complex, therefore a grading system was needed to account for variabilityin project difficulty and student performance at that difficulty.Toward creating more consistency in grading student proposals and final reports, a new gradingrubric is in the process of being developed. The objectives of this rubric development has beento normalize grades across faculty members, accounting for disciplinary expertise and projectdifficulty. The paper presents the in-progress rubric as well as preliminary inter-rater reliabilityevidence which was developed using four academic and two professional reviewers of studentproject proposals. The aspiration is that this rubric would be useful for many engineeringprograms that use project-based learning and require some form of final written document fromstudents as a metric for grading.

Gnanapragasam, N., & Canney, N. E. (2015, June), Work in Progress: Rubric Development for Year-long Civil Engineering Capstone Projects Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25083

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