Tracking skills development and self-efficacy in a new first-year engineering design course
This evidence-based practice paper describes the development and implementation of surveys and a focus group to understand the impact of a new first-year engineering design course. With the intent of adding a practical design experience for first-year students, the Engineering Design and Communication course was introduced as a pilot program in the fall of 2017 at Duke University. over the course of a semester, students work in teams to learn and apply the engineering design process to a client-based problem drawn from a community partner. In the course, the students should learn to 1) apply the engineering design process to meet the needs of a client; 2) iteratively prototype a solution using appropriate tools and materials; 3) work collaboratively on a team; and 4) communicate the critical steps in the design process in written, oral, and visual formats. The course was created following many best practices in first-year engineering education. This paper focuses specifically on how the course contributes to students' confidence about themselves as engineers, students' understanding of the engineering design process, and students' progress in technical skills. The paper also assesses students' satisfaction with the course. This information is designed to help leaders in the engineering school comprehend the specific impact of the first-year design course, in addition to laying the foundation for a long-term retention study. There are two parts of this study: online surveys and a focus group. The participants for the surveys included subsets of the 48 freshmen students in the course. To conduct this data collection, three surveys were administered to generate paired data used to investigate trends over time. To generate qualitative data and gain insight into what might be underlying the results of the surveys, a focus group session was conducted. Statistical analyses, including two-sample t-tests, paired t-tests, and chi-squared tests, were conducted with the survey data to determine significance of changes over time. Qualitative data from the open-ended questions was evaluated by frequency of response. Major findings from this study include: students definitively progressed in crafting, CAD, and rapid prototyping over the course of the semester; participants' confidence in each step of the engineering design process increased; and the course was successful in providing students with real-world experiences that positively contributed to their engineering self-efficacy.
Daniels, J; Sanlillan, ST; Saterbak, A
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