Design Practica as Authentic Assessments in First-year Engineering Design Courses

McComb, C., Berdanier, C., and Menold, J.

2018, ASEE First-Year Engineering Education Conference

This paper describes the design and evaluation of a novel assessment for first-year engineering design courses that is rooted in an authentic design challenge. This approach modifies the traditional written-exam approach typically found in engineering courses, which is inherently inauthentic and cannot easily capture the exploratory nature of engineering design. Our assessment improves alignment with common learning objectives found in first-year engineering design courses and additionally prepares students for the type of case study interviews that are increasingly common for entry-level engineering jobs. To evaluate our assessment, 50 first-year students completed the engineering design self-efficacy instrument once before beginning the assessment and a second time approximately 48 hours later upon completion of a reflection assignment. In addition, students retrospectively reported their perceived change in self-efficacy during the assessment. Analysis shows that students perceived a large retrospective increase in skill level, despite only a small increase in directly measured self-efficacy. These results are analyzed in light of the Dunning-Kruger effect and we posit that the assessment helps to align students’ self-efficacy with their actual skill level. Increased alignment of self-efficacy with skill level may minimize student frustration when encountering challenging tasks in the future, potentially increasing retention of engineering students as well as facilitating the development of lifelong learning attitudes.