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First Steps Toward Curricular Integration of Computational Tools

[+] Author Affiliations
T. Hinds, J. Sticklen, M. Urban-Lurain, M. Amey, T. Eskil

Michigan State University

Paper No. IMECE2005-79956, pp. 67-72; 6 pages
  • ASME 2005 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Innovations in Engineering Education: Mechanical Engineering Education, Mechanical Engineering/Mechanical Engineering Technology Department Heads
  • Orlando, Florida, USA, November 5 – 11, 2005
  • Conference Sponsors: Mechanical Engineering Education
  • ISBN: 0-7918-4232-0 | eISBN: 0-7918-3769-6
  • Copyright © 2005 by ASME


Calls for new paradigms for engineering education are widespread [1-3]. Yet, major curricular change is difficult to accomplish for many reasons, including having the necessary faculty buy-in [4]. Generally, efforts can be classified as either top-down/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 course 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 their courses, they have difficulty seeing how the material they learn in one course will connect to the next. We have performed a pair of initial studies using an evolutionary approach to curricular reform that capitalized on the strengths of both the top-down and bottom-up models, which was built on the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) reform literature. This approach developed a pairwise linkage among strategic courses in the engineering curricula to promote curricular integration and helped 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. Pre-reform data collected in the first study showed that students taking an introductory computing course did not see the importance of learning a particular software tool (MATLAB), because they did not see connections to their future courses. This had negative impacts on student motivation, learning, and retention. In our recent work, which was our first vertical effort, we focused on MATLAB with integration of the learning of this engineering tool in an introductory computing course with the solution of statics problems in an introductory mechanical engineering course. Our recent study set out to determine if joint team efforts would enhance student perceptions of the set learning goal for the introductory computing students while enhancing learning outcomes for both the introductory computing and introductory mechanical engineering students. The paper outlines this pairwise linkage model, the goals of this project, the framework for evaluating the linkage, and the types of data we collected as part of the evaluation effort. Results from the initial study confirmed that problem-based teamwork enhanced student attitudes towards MATLAB. We also describe how results here will enable us to reach our long-term goal of curricular integration.

Copyright © 2005 by ASME



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