Developing an Engineering Environment for Fostering Effective Critical Thinking (EFFECT) Through Measurements

Funding agency: 
National Science Foundation
03/01/2007 - 00:00 to 02/28/2010 - 00:00

Most undergraduate engineering curricula provide the core knowledge and technical skills necessary to practice engineering. However, students rarely comprehend the underlying theory and fundamental concepts because the common assessment instruments can be satisfied through memorization and equation application. Students may not question the validity or potential repercussions of their solution or design, an essential step in any engineering design. Faculty from the University of South Carolina and Midlands Technical College are developing an Engineering Environment for Fostering Effective Critical Thinking (EFFECT) through measurements which relies on a conceptual model of how engineering judgment is formulated. In each EFFECT, students are solving real-world problems in Civil Engineering, while gaining hands-on experience with a directly related engineering measurement. Engineering judgment has three major components: 1) authentic experience, 2) core content knowledge, and 3) fundamental data-based technical skills. These components are synthesized when students think critically to solve the realistic engineering problems that are addressed in each EFFECT using an open-ended, inquiry-based approach. Various assessment methods are being used to evaluate the effectiveness, longitudinal impact, and institutional transferability of each EFFECT.