This abstract is being submitted as Evidence-Based Practice.
As technology is rapidly advancing, engineers that are able to adapt to a constantly changing global economy are needed more than ever. Engineering students need to work on developing communication and problem-solving skills early and often. However, these traits aren’t easily assessed with a traditional exam and can look different from person to person. To combat this problem, this work suggests a novel and flexible form of assessment which allows students to demonstrate learning in ways that further their own professional goals and benefit the world around them.
This assessment process consists of three main components: student-developed learning objectives, classifying objectives using Bloom’s 3D Taxonomy of Learning, and demonstrating success through external value. While working on a project and learning course content, students are expected to write learning objectives that explain what they will learn, to what level they will learn it, and how they will demonstrate it. By writing learning objectives, students are taking part in the process of metacognition, which helps solidify both content and skills. Just as engineers write design requirements captures to direct their work, students write learning objectives to frame their work in the course.
Because of the large amount of freedom when writing objectives, Bloom’s 3D Taxonomy of Learning is used to help provide students with scaffolding. Students start by showing low-level learning (e.g. writing a report that shows understanding of concepts) which then builds into high-level learning (e.g. publishing a paper about the creation of an experimental procedure). Classifying learning with Bloom’s 3D provides structure while still allowing for student freedom.
Assessment in the course is done by measuring external value, which consists of 1) providing value outside the classroom, and 2) some sort of external review from the scientific community or end-users. For example, an in-class presentation would be lower external value than presenting at a business plan competition. Students feel invested because they have the freedom to choose a form of external value that most closely aligns with their personal and professional goals, and they are able to work on meaningful solutions that benefit their community.
A cardiovascular engineering course at a research university has used this model for more than five years. Successful students have produced peer-reviewed publications, new businesses, and grant funding. To quantify what students are learning, what makes successful students, and how this type of learning can be supported, learning objective data from 28 students were collected during a semester to explore the different pathways that students choose. Students used an electronic portal to log their learning objectives, classify them, and link each objective to proof of their learning.
This work defines the learning objective creation process, explains how it is used for assessment in a cardiovascular engineering course, and suggests how to implement this assessment strategy in other courses. Example learning objectives from a variety of students will be presented and discussed, as well as general trends and takeaways.
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