Redesigning Assessment: the Design and Implementation of a Rubric-Based Assessment System to Improve Engineering Design Education

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Woodhall, Thomas
Design Engineering , Engineering Education , Design Projects , Capstone Design
Engineering education serves to provide society with competent engineering graduates, capable of making a difference to their profession and the world around them. Since the Grinter Report of the 1950s in the United States, engineering education has focused its approach upon improving the technical and analytical competencies of engineering students. Many practicing engineers find that recent graduates are adequately developing their technical skills but are lacking in a deep-knowledge of engineering’s core creative process: design. Although there has been an increase in design instruction in some engineering programs, there is typically a lack of focus on related assessment, which forms a key part of the educational process. Students focus their efforts upon that which is being graded, resulting in students focusing on achieving deliverable requirements rather then on deeply learning the process and techniques of engineering design. The research question asked was: will students be more likely to achieve core course objectives and learning goals in an intensive, multidisciplinary course by using a well tailored rubric-based assessment process, in comparison to a more “traditional” course assessment scheme? Traditional course assessments often focus upon the success of a final deliverable for students to achieve a good mark, and in design courses can focus on the success of the final product. Student opinion towards its implementation and value in helping them reach learning goals was surveyed to determine the usefulness of the rubric in helping to reach course objectives and learning goals. These surveys indicated: strong student support for the use of a rubric system; a positive student response to the feedback being provided to them through weekly rubric-based advice; the rubric provided a suitable level of detail to be helpful to students in achieving course objectives; students were capable of internalizing the learning goals and using the assessment system to evaluate their peers; and finally that the assessment system was a viable alternative to traditional course assessments.
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