“Authentic Engineering Experiences for First-Year Engineering Students: Intentional Design and Assessment for Learning”
Dr. Heidi A. Diefes-Dux, Purdue University
It is increasingly recognized that more opportunities need to be provided to engage students in significant engineering problem solving or design experiences that reflect engineering practice, particularly in the first year of undergraduate education. The learning value of these experiences can be suspect, however, if they cannot support analytical skills development as well as professional skills development such as communication and teaming. There is not much guidance available for creating learning experiences around a real problem so that the inherent complexity and nature of the problem can be harnessed to promote effective learning across a wide variety of learning objectives. And assessment of student work produced during these experiences is challenging because students produce solutions that are complex (e.g., they involve multiple concepts or involve many different but good ideas), and students demonstrate varying degrees of achievement along many dimensions. So it can be hard to decide what to attend to and at what level of detail. As a result we often struggle to engage students in complex problem solving in ways that accelerate them on a path to being effective problem solvers. This seminar will look at how classroom-based research around the design, implementation and assessment of model-eliciting activities (client- and user-driven open-ended problems set in authentic engineering contexts and based on the models and modeling perspective) has informed open-ended problem solving and engineering design education for first-year engineering students.
Heidi A. Diefes-Dux is an associate professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She received her BS and MS in food science from Cornell University and her PhD in agricultural and biological engineering from Purdue. Since 1999 she has been on the faculty of Purdue’s First-Year Engineering Program, the gateway for all first-year students entering the College of Engineering. She coordinated and continues to teach in the required first-year engineering course, which engages students in open-ended problem solving and design. She has been involved in the 10-year transformation of the first-year engineering course from a focus on computer tools skills development to a problem-solving and design learning experience. Her primary research focus is the development, implementation and assessment of model-eliciting activities with realistic engineering contexts for K-16 settings. She is a co-author of “Models and Modeling in Engineering Education: Designing Experiences for All Students” (Sense Publishers, 2008). She is also director of Teacher Professional Development for the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE), where she provides professional development for and conducts research with elementary school teachers interested in integrating engineering concepts into their curriculums.