Curricular integration of computational tools by evolutionary steps

TitleCurricular integration of computational tools by evolutionary steps
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference2004
AuthorsUrban-Lurain, M, Amey M, Sticklen J, Hinds T, Eskil T
Conference NameAmerican Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition
Date PublishedJune 20-23
PublisherAmerican Society of Engineering Education
Conference LocationSalt Lake City, Utah
AbstractCalls for new paradigms for engineering education are widespread. Yet, major curricular change is difficult to accomplish for many reasons, including having the necessary faculty buy-in. Generally, efforts can be classified as either topdown/ structural, in which faculty assess an entire program of study and address needs in each component before implementation begins; or bottom-up/individual, a more traditional approach that implements change in one class at a time. Faculty buy-in, consensus, and resources (unit and institutional) needed for the top-down approach make it difficult to accomplish. On the other hand, the bottom-up model is slow, the assumption that curricular reform can be affected by an accumulation of individual course adaptations is unproven, and the change goals need to have a more systemic focus. Unless the curriculum helps students integrate material across the courses, they have difficulty seeing how the material they learn in one course will connect to the next. We propose an evolutionary approach to curricular reform that capitalizes on the strengths of both the top-down and bottom-up models, and builds on the STEM reform literature. This approach develops multiple, pairwise linkages among strategic classes in the engineering curricula to promote curricular integration and help students see connections between their first-year courses and subsequent courses. Vertically integrated problem-based learning scenarios that link across courses are crucial to this model. Our first vertical effort focuses on MatLab, to integrate learning of this engineering tool in an introductory computing course with the solution of statics problems in an introductory mechanical engineering course. Pre-reform data show thatstudents taking the introductory computing course do not see the importance of learning MatLab, because they do not see connections to their future courses. This has negative impacts on student motivation, learning, and retention. The paper outlines this pairwise linkages model, the goals of this project, the framework for evaluating the linkages and the types of data we are collecting as part of the evaluation effort. Results from the current study confirm that problem-based team work enhances student attitudes towards MatLab.
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