This paper reports the redesign of a junior level engineering experimentation course to promote students’ problem solving and technical communication skills. The redesign was carried out to support the accreditation of an engineering program in a technical institution in China.
Since China became an official member of the Washington Accord in 2016, engineering programs in Chinese universities and colleges have attempted to adopt outcome-based education. Between 2018 and 2019, the authors redesigned an experimentation course that had been offered for 14 years at the authors’ home institution. The newly designed curriculum was implemented for the first time in the fall semester of 2019.
Following the guiding principle of letting students “work as an engineer,” the course instructors took a backward design approach to redesigning this course. First, learning outcomes for the course were redefined to highlight problem solving skills, which are essential outcomes according to the ABET criteria. Second, a comprehensive assessment plan was created to measure student progress in each of the learning outcomes. Rubrics-based grading focuses on assessing five dimensions of student work: the solution’s efficacy, quality of technical writing, oral communication, completion of prototypes, and testing plans and results. Finally, the newly developed learning outcomes and assessment plan were aligned with learning activities in the course, including design, prototyping, testing, as well as reflective exercises. Project-Based and Problem-Based Learning are the signature pedagogies in this course. The instructors also created an authentic learning environment, equipped with necessary sensors, electronic components, assembling materials, operating tools, and testing platforms.
Results of student learning in this course will be reported in two manners: First, statistics of student grades in communication and hands-on work will be shared. Second, results from a student survey that represents their self-assessment of problem solving skills will be reported.
This work is important as it reports one of the few examples of systematically applying PBL and the ABET criteria in redesigning an engineering experimentation course in China. The paper discusses lessons from adopting ABET student outcomes in an international context and provides a case study for the international dissemination of educational standards in engineering.
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