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Engineering Education: Instruction & Assessment

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Are you concerned with teaching your students about engineering education? The following lesson will explain some of the details, including both instruction and assessment methods, with an emphasis on backward design and design thinking.

Engineering Education

Queen Elizabeth II once said ''at its heart, engineering is about using science to find creative, practical solutions. It is a noble profession''.

Indeed, the term engineering refers to the branch of science that deals with building machines and similar technological structures. In relation to school curricula, the acronym STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Sometimes it is turned into STEAM, with the extra A standing for Arts.

Are you a beginning teacher, and would like to better comprehend both engineering instruction and engineering assessment? Then read on to discover more.

Backward Design Phases

Backward design is a teaching method in which goals are set first and instruction and assessment methods selected second. Why is this design so popular for engineering classes? One of the main reasons is that it fits so well with the hands-on nature of engineering projects. Let's take a look at the phases.

Phase I: Objectives

Phase I - Identify objectives to be learned and results that are desired

In this initial phase, the educator will want to, among other things:

  • Ask for perseverance
  • Ask for student cooperation
  • Determine district, state, and national standards
  • Encourage brainstorming
  • Figure out what problems could be solved
  • Look at the problem from many points of view
  • Review expectations
  • Set specific goals

Phase II - Assessment

Phase II - Define a strategy for assessment and determine evidence that is acceptable

In the second phase, the educator will wish to use an engineering design process rubric, which is a type of specialized scoring guide, to evaluate the students. One effective way to assess the progress of your students is simply by observing them during a class period.

Another of the most favored methods is the use of pop quizzes by the teacher. However, these can be quite stressful on the students and should be used sparingly. Furthermore, if they are utilized too often, they lose their intended effect. Like pop quizzes, tests and exams can be effective assessment techniques.

A methodology that is similar to an actual lab class is to assign practice problems, and have the students work together in small groups.

One more helpful assessment technique is to ask questions every five minutes or so to keep them from ''zoning out'' during a lecture. Also, this will provide ongoing feedback as to whether they are grasping the concepts the teacher is presenting.

However, one of the best, and often overlooked, ways for an educator to assess their students is through the use of labs and hands-on projects.

Phase III - Teaching Plan

Phase III - Plan teaching methodologies along with instructions, materials, and resources

In the third phase, the educator will do what you might think would have been done in the first phase, which is plan the lesson. Questions to ask could include:

  • How can the concept of scaffolding benefit us?
  • What activities and project ideas would be best for our overall plan?
  • Will our design even work properly?
  • What resources will we need?
  • Will our design eventually need upgrades?

Design Thinking

Design thinking refers to strategies and tactics used to solve problems in new and creative ways. Note that the term is rather broad, and there exist many different design thinking multi-step processes that can be undertaken by students.

Let's say your students wanted to create a better ''robot vacuum'' for homes that cleans so well it even picks up virus particles, which would appeal to families, especially since the COVID-19 outbreak. The steps of a nine-step process could be:

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