Category Archives: practices

Digging in for the Second Year of CPREE

Having just wrapped up a strong first year, CPREE educators across our 12 partner campuses are gearing up for an exciting start to the second. From setting up mini-grants to facilitate awardees in implementing reflective practices of their own design to engaging other faculty members and instructors around them in questions of how reflective practices can benefit classrooms in a variety of disciplines, our members have been busy helping to bring meaningful change in engineering education across the country. We wanted to share some of their stories to highlight the important work they are doing as well as provide inspiration to others looking to do the same.

 Arizona State University – Polytechnic Campus – Kristy Csavina and Adam Carberry

It was exciting to read the mini-grant applications and learn of the reflective practices already adopted by faculty within the Fulton Schools of Engineering. We have successfully completed our kick-off meetings and have 12 new mini-grant awardees spanning across the six engineering schools at ASU. The team includes instructors, tenure-track, and tenured faculty with a range of discipline expertise as well as years of experience teaching. Each has used a form of reflection in their classrooms prior to CPREE, some more innovative than others. In addition to this, many faculty have already expressed interest in our new ‘mentor a colleague program’. We expect another 6-12 faculty to join our team between now and January 2016.

Bellevue College – Frank Lee

The reception of the CPREE Field Guide at the start-of-the-year Science Division meeting was very positive; many faculty new to CPREE expressed interest in participating and implementing a reflection activity in their course.

“At first when I heard about reflection I thought it would be fluff, but now that I see the activities, it looks very useful and am interested in doing [it],” said a Chemistry Faculty member.

We think there are many great ideas and applications in the field guide collection. We are attempting a preliminary grouping of the entries into common categories as a way to more efficiently direct educators to entries that might be of interest for their needs.

California Polytechnic Institute and State University – Trevor Harding

Our participation has doubled from 15 faculty and 2 students last academic year to 35 faculty participants this year. Our new members hail from the Humanities, Chemistry and Physics departments and bring with them highly divergent experiences with reflection, the experienced ones including it in nearly every course they teach while others are just beginning to explore what reflection is and how they might use it.

While reflecting on what they had learned, a participant in our collaborative inquiry dialogue group found that “[the] freeform discussions not only expand my horizons, but also remind me of the power of simply taking the time to sit down and talk with others.”

Clarkson University- John Moosbrugger

Having established our mini-grant fund, we now have 8 mini-grant awardees engaged in reflective practices and are looking to recruit more. In our ongoing efforts to invite more participation from faculty, we have found the most effective method is to meet with them individually. Often, we find that they are already incorporating or planning to include activities in their courses that are reflective in nature. The main “barrier” seems to be making the communication happen. Since we are situated on a geographically small campus, it is also more efficient to conduct face-to-face project meetings to figure out details to make the evaluation process work. An interesting side-benefit of this that we have discovered is that it seems to be “forcing” more detailed sharing of teaching practices among the participating faculty.

Georgia Institute of Technology – Caroline Noyes and Ruth Poproski

We are getting the word out and there is already a general consciousness on campus that the Center for Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) will be devoting this year to reflection. We have been discussing the role of reflection in memory and learning at our book club meetings and have had good attendance so far. The mini-grants are getting ready to roll out and we are looking forward to welcoming new awardees. We are also already planning our retreat in the spring and have located an exciting speaker.

Green River College – Janet Ash and Jeff McCauley

The Green River Reflection Activity Team (RATS) met for a two hour kick off of year two activities. Ten faculty and one classified staff member participated in planning our campus wide CPREE efforts, which include both a study group on reflective practices and classroom activities in the fall quarter involving four departments. Laura Moore-Mueller of our Math division commented that this meeting was the best student focused event she had participated in the entire week. The faculty in this group embraced the opportunity to wrestle with the challenges of incorporating reflection into their classrooms and the new members brought freshness and new perspectives. One of them is a relatively new English teacher that teaches Technical Writing to our engineering students, but also teaches creative writing to the humanities/social science students. She shared some of her reflective classroom practices that utilizes Harry Potter as the catalyst! Another enthusiastic new member is a veteran IT professional with years of industry experience eager to use the field guides he sees as urgently needed for his students.

Highline College – Rich Bankhead

In our opening week event, “Building a Community of Reflective Educators,” we discussed the definition of reflection with 17 faculty in both STEM and non-STEM discipline. Together, we explored why students are sometimes not successful in class, leading to discussion of how we can avoid “telling” our students what it takes to be successful, and instead motivate them towards becoming better students through personal reflection.  We also discussed the use of reflection for culturally responsive teaching, reflection in non-verbal formats, and how reflection can serve our diverse campus community. There was a great deal of interest, to the extent of one of the discussions running overtime!

Our second opening week event, a “birds of a feather” round-table conversation focused on reflective teaching was equally successful. An attending computer science faculty member who was initially unconvinced that reflective activities could be tailored to the needs of his classroom was a great deal more excited by the end by the activities we have planned.

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology – Patrick Cunningham and Ella Ingram

We started off our activities with a module on reflection presented by Patrick Cunningham at our Summer Teaching Workshop. While it was well received by all participants, one new faculty member in Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSSE) got particularly excited about the use of reflection to help students build meaning. He had spent several years in the industry and saw the significance of helping students understand the importance of course topics and how they connect to people’s lives and even their own lives.

Just the other day, Patrick Cunningham was approached for an informal conversation about reflection by his colleague Richard Onyancha. Richard is involved in global engineering and has been thinking about how to engage students in processing experiences doing engineering in a global context, including traveling abroad, and had thought of speaking to Richard. We were pleased to realize that CPREE at Rose-Hulman is becoming a resource that people think of.

Seattle Central College – Doug Faust

We have been rolling out our mini-grants and preliminary data indicates that is costs about $5 to create and administer a reflective experience for a student.  Everyone seems to be impressed by this number, and if you consider that any given reflection may change a student’s academic trajectory, it is impressive.  You could say that one of our ‘a-ha’ moments is realizing that an experienced educator can choreograph an ‘a-ha’ moment for a student so efficiently.

We have also noticed that the mini-grant system is a very effective way of getting people involved in the project. The PI informally polled some of the educators and they reported that by letting them choose the mode and techniques of the reflective practice, they felt that the project was supportive of their existing teaching instead of disruptive and invasive.

Seattle University – Phil Thompson

At the end of July, we held a workshop for 11 faculty members intended to facilitate the creation of new reflection activities. Using the activity he devised at this workshop, Phillip Thompson conducted a pilot project for the reflection / assessment cycle in August-September. The activity had been designed for students who had engaged in a service-learning trip to a developing country. Three students who visited Thailand from June-August 2015 participated in both the reflection and the assessment. The exercise caused Dr. Thompson to wish he had started these student reflection essays ten years ago when he first began his work with students abroad.

Stanford University – Sheri Sheppard and Helen Chen

One group of educators we are working with is led by the Head TA (leading a group of nine TAs) for the Earth Systems introductory overview course for first and second-year students. Several of these graduate students attended our CPREE workshop in the spring and followed up with us again in the fall. Our initial conversation about where reflection activities might be incorporated into the course eventually led to a broader conversation about articulating course learning outcomes and identifying where and how instructors might envision change in student knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, etc. as a result of taking the course. Several questions came up: How might the product of a reflection activity represent evidence of learning impact? If there were several reflection activities embedded throughout a course, would it be possible map change or growth over time? How do reflection activities inform both individual student self-assessment as well as course or program evaluation?

University of Washington – Ken Yasuhara

One of the early “clients” that we are most excited about is a group of pre-engineering advising staff in the college. They are responsible for ENGR 101, a survey seminar enrolling over 400 students annually that has a format of weekly visiting presenters. We have discussed a wide variety of ways of increasing and enhancing the reflection and active learning components of this course. ENGR 101 is an ideal context for consortium activity, given that most enrollees are first-years and sophomores who are considering but are not necessarily already committed to an engineering major. Similarly, although at a smaller scale, another current client is designing and teaching a first-year seminar for prospective bioengineering majors as part of a university-wide effort to encourage student understanding and development of leadership.

Sharing the First Year of CPREE

At CPREE, we have just wrapped up our first year of activity on the 12 partner campuses. Over 100 educators from across the country participated in our mapping of reflection activities. Educators shared the many creative ways that they prompt students to reflect and our core team has captured those activities to create over 120 field guide entries. Along with capturing these activities, each campus hosted two or more events to engage educators, and sometimes students, in activities to further understand and promote reflection. With so many educators, activities, and events, it is difficult to highlight just one story from our first year. In this post, we wanted to share a brief story from each of our twelve campuses about their first year in CPREE. Our team is excited as we are well on our way to making a notable and long-lasting change in engineering education across the country.


Arizona State University – Polytechnic Campus –Kristy Csavina and Adam Carberry

While attending the 2015 Research in Engineering Education Symposium, Adam Carberry ran into the Senior Dean of Student and Academic Affairs at ASU, Dr. James Collofello. Dr. Collofello had attended the symposium based on a previous conversation with Adam. During a session run by the UW CPREE PIs it was noted that ASU was a participating institution and that Dr. Carberry was one of the ASU PIs. Dr. Collofello was sitting next to Adam and immediately suggested that they meet upon returning to ASU because he would like to leverage his office, the introduction to engineering course, and the Undergraduate Teaching Assistant Program to help expand the ASU CPREE efforts.

Bellevue College – Frank Lee

At Bellevue, the interview process itself was a great experience for all involved. We had a chance to take the time to reflect on our teaching and are looking forward to sharing the collection of field guides with campus faculty. We’re definitely anticipating a strong response from interested faculty based on those who joined our team after participating in campus events. The college’s Teaching Strategies Discussion Group leader allowed CPREE to present at a group meeting; during the meeting, the leader gradually became more and more enthusiastic about how integral reflection is part of the learning process.

California Polytechnic Institute and State University – Trevor Harding

From our discussion group there have been a number of aha moments for participants.  For some this has focused on what the conditions are for effective reflection.  Some of these conditions include the need that students believe in the value of reflection before they reflect, the time to reflect, safe conditions in which to share your reflection product, and so on.  Other faculty were thinking about what is appropriate to ask students to reflect on, and how safe will they feel if we ask them to reflect on something deeply personal.  Some faculty noticed that they had been thinking about reflection only for enhancement of learning effectiveness and had never considered that reflection could be used as a way to promote transformation in the lives of students more holistically.  Still others had noticed that they felt they were taking a risk in asking students to reflect on their experiences in a class because the students might turn it into an evaluation of the instructor.


Clarkson University- John Moosbrugger

A colleague, Charles Robinson approached me, unsolicited, about activities in his course BR200 Introduction to Biomedical and Rehabilitation Engineering, Science and Technology. He wanted to include a question or two on a course feedback “survey” that would be useful to the project (CPREE project). He just became interested because of press releases about the project and announcements for the Brown Bag Lunches. I have his summarized student responses, and I may be able to make some use of them. What was gratifying to me was his enthusiasm to do something without being solicited.

 Georgia Institute of Technology – Caroline Noyes and Ruth Poproski

Of particular note, the faculty who are meeting weekly to discuss teaching and learning in large classes were able to come up with many ideas of how to implement reflection for learning in their large classes, ranging from 60 to 300 students.  Again, the quick and enthusiastic buy-in was surprising to us, given our sense of resistance in the past.  The main take-away from this is that the provision of evidence from the research in addition to examples of reflection activities that will be provided from the field guides generated by the consortium will go a long way in terms of getting faculty to understand and embrace the import and feasibility of using reflection to enhance learning, even in large classes.

Green River College – Janet Ash and Jeff McCauley

The CPREE project has made a notable mark in how we look at reflection within the many engineering classes that we teach and the benefits to students when reflection is present in the classroom. In the mechanics of materials and differential equations courses, it appears there was a notable increase in meaningful reflection and critical thinking by the students as the problems become more open-ended and more theoretically difficult. In a computer science course, an educator uses a survey; one question presents a list of potential reading strategies for students to consider as they prepare for class each week. As the students review this list weekly, they are reminded of how their own reading abilities can be improved and they were reading more successfully as the quarter progressed. A mathematics educator shared their post-quiz reflection with us for the field guide and two of us adopted that activity in our own classes. We were all delighted to see the activity helped students in all three, very different classes to improve their performance overall.

Highline College – Rich Bankhead

We use a reflective activity in our ENGR 100 class in which students design their own process for becoming a world-class engineering student. Reading the assignments at the end of the quarter is always refreshing. For example, a student wrote, “Engineering is a demanding field and this class has delineated what it will take to meet these demands…I can look back over each week’s exercises and assignments and see so much preparatory action and relevancy for years to come.” Another student wrote, “Understanding the different learning styles and how they applied gave me a better grasp on how I learn and what I need to do to be successful in the future. For example, I learned that I have a preference for reflective learning…”

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology – Patrick Cunningham and Ella Ingram

We have a Rose-Hulman affiliated design and development firm, Rose-Hulman Ventures, that hires our students part-time during the school year and full-time over the summer to work on industry sponsored projects. Projects are led by full-time project managers and students work together on teams. I (Patrick Cunningham) met with Elizabeth Hagerman, Vice President of Rose-Hulman Ventures, in the fall to discuss role of reflection in student work experiences. At this point, it seems reflections are primarily informal and likely driven by the project managers. She invited me back to present about CPREE at a staff meeting with project managers to find out more from them and see what participation might develop from there. I will be visiting a staff meeting in January.

Seattle Central College – Doug Faust

Our group facilitator brought up the very interesting point that faculty choices of reflection activities may be informed by their own teaching goals and values. We look forward to investigating these connections during the campus-wide events and using this as a way to open dialogues with faculty about their teaching practice. In later discussions, the idea of grading reflective practices came up again and again. Fundamentally, faculty seem to understand and fear that students may not genuinely engage in reflection if it’s being graded. For example, the boiler-plate response “I need to study harder” written on exam reflections is coming from a place of wanting to satisfy a grader and not a genuine reflection. We’d would like to explore this more because it seems quite key in instructional design.

Seattle University – Phil Thompson

Through our two on campus events, we have been able to connect over 20% of our science and engineering faculty to the CPREE project. We were able to share reflection activities, and spend valuable time discussing teaching with each other. The two events helped ensure our group of 16 educators to participate in our year 2 efforts. On July 21 and July 28 we held what turned out to be two very inspiring and motivational workshops on reflection. A group of 11 faculty developed new reflective activities for their courses. We also began developing assessment tools for each of these activities and are looking forward to implementing these activities in the fall.

Stanford University – Sheri Sheppard and Helen Chen

In each interview that we will do, we will try to find this one element that we find important in reflection, which is change.  We feel that it’s not enough to tell students to “go and reflect”, instead they need help with connecting their experiences to the course material, with challenging their beliefs and assumptions, and in deepening their learning.  How do we not rely on student’s testimonials and self-reports to assess the quality of their learning –because the challenge is that self–reporting will lead to confusion between student satisfaction and student learning.  Is there a measure that allows students to show us, rather than tell us, that they have attained greater understanding, that they have ability to apply their knowledge, and problem solving skills?

University of Washington – Ken Yasuhara

One of my initial (non-interview) meetings was with Sonya Cunningham, a staffer who runs a CoE program specifically designed to prepare financial aid-eligible freshman for majoring in engineering. Allowing myself to forgo rushing into an interview about a specific reflection activity freed me to talk with Sonya about the program and its recent history of major design changes. I learned that Sonya already incorporates reflection in numerous ways but was interested in streamlining her process, which we agreed to meet again to discuss. At the end of our hour-long discussion, she agreed to send me some of her program materials to inform my choice of a reflection activity to focus a mapping interview on when we next met. Perhaps more valuable to me than meeting the CPREE objectives of the meeting, however, was hearing about all of the thoughtful pedagogy and heartfelt energy that Sonya puts into this program. As I remarked on multiple occasions, she was remarkably well-informed about pedagogy, program design, diversity, and persistence issues. Our conversation left me so inspired and hopeful that I decided to drop a line to the associate dean whom she reports to. I have no illusions of being a power broker but know that good work too often goes unrecognized and unrewarded, and I figured it couldn’t hurt CoE’s chances of retaining Sonya or Sonya’s chances of career advancement. I count it as a good sign that the word I put in quickly made it back to Sonya, who thanked me many times.

Reflective Learning Prepares Students for the ‘Real World’

by  Elizabeth Lowry, The Graduate School, University of Washington

The concept of reflective learning may spark some initial apprehension on the part of educators and students. But once they try it, they quickly see that it works, according to research and widespread practice.

Students – in fields from engineering to dance – deepen and strengthen their learning when they contemplate the material they have just learned to find its meaning and connections to past courses, lessons or experiences. In other words, reflection helps students connect the dots.

Learning through reflection in college prepares students for the “real world” after graduation.

“Employers are looking for students who are able to retain and make connections across contexts,” said Cindy Atman, director for the UW Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching and professor in Human Centered Design & Engineering.

“No matter how engaging and authentic the context that we as educators teach in, we cannot predict and model every situation that our students would need to demonstrate their knowledge. Reflecting on new information and making connections to prior learning, and diverse contexts is a critically important skill for the 21st century workforce.”

Reflection can support student learning – in any field of study, according to Atman and Betsy Cooper, divisional dean of arts in the College of Arts & Sciences and professor in Dance. Atman and Cooper will give the keynote presentation at 3 p.m., Tuesday, April 14, during the UW Teaching and Learning Symposium in the HUB Ballroom. The symposium begins at 2 p.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m., with the keynote taking place between the two poster sessions.

“Some of the benefits are that students become more meta-cognitive in their approach to learning, moving from novice to expert at an accelerated pace,” Cooper said. “Students become more engaged in their learning as they connect experiences across learning domains. And educators become more responsive.”

The symposium will highlight some of the UW’s most innovative research and practices in teaching and learning as more than 80 faculty, staff, and students from nearly 40 departments and units across all three UW campuses present 42 posters that detail their research methods, results and implications. Interim Provost Gerald J. Baldasty will give the welcoming remarks. Poster presentations range from the impact of active learning spaces on student learning to incorporating art into assignments in social science courses to shortening doctoral students’ time-to-degree by providing writing support.

Hosted by the UW Center for Teaching and Learning, the symposium is open to the entire University, and no reservations are required.

Atman and Jennifer Turns, professor in Human Centered Design & Engineering, direct a consortium comprised of 12 campuses across the country to implement reflection in engineering classrooms. Funded by a grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Consortium to Promote Reflection in Engineering Education is interviewing educators about the reflection activities they use with engineering students. These activities include short, in-class reflection activities on how students used their day and student portfolios. Another form of reflection is an “exam wrapper,” in which students reflect on how they prepared for exams and how they performed. Then, students identify strategies to improve. The center staff will present a poster at the symposium with a sampling of reflection activities that local engineering educators are using, along with the rationale and benefits.

In the generative and performing arts, the most common means of reflective practice occurs through critique, Cooper noted. “This can mean self-critique, instructor or peer. It is common that all three are interwoven in a process,” she said. Through repetition and revision, based on the critique, an artist refines his or her technique and expressivity.

Other reflection methods in the arts include journaling, reflective essays on class progress and reflective essays on a portfolio. By establishing goal statements at the beginning of a dance course, Cooper’s students can create strategies to meet those goals, as well as revisit and revise the goals throughout the quarter.

The benefits of reflective learning extend throughout students’ professional lives as they can incorporate reflection into their individual work strategies and practices.

“Reflective practice can be a potent means for continued growth, and an antidote to burnout,” Cooper said.


View the original post here:

View Dr. Atman’s slides from her keynote address here: Using Reflection to Support Student Learning

Thinking about Thinking: A review of “Getting Students Thinking about Thinking” by David Gooblar

By: Lauren Sepp, UW Graduate Student, Human Centered Design & Engineering

Recently, we performed an investigation into the number explicit references to reflection in the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) conference papers.  It was found that over the last 14 years of the conference, explicit references to reflection have increased drastically. (Figure 1)

Figure 1 - Number of  ASEE Conference Papers Mentioning Reflection
Figure 1 – Number of ASEE Conference Papers Mentioning Reflection

What is even more exciting is that reflection is also getting some attention outside of formal scholarship.  A recent blog post by David Gooblar, a literature and writing teacher at Mount Mercy University and Augstana College focuses on how to get students to think about how they think.  The main focus of his push is to introduce metacognitive methods to students to take the burden of facilitation and student introspection away from the teacher and empower students with those critical self-reflection skills.  David suggests a variety of activities to support metacognitive growth via experiences including exam wrappers, which many of us are familiar with, and another activity called “knowledge ratings.”

Originally from Tamara Rosier, a leader at the consultancy Acorn Leadership, “knowledge ratings” require students to be focused on their understanding of class material while the class is in session.  Students are asked to rate their knowledge on a scale of 0-3, with 0 indicating not knowledgeable. By the end of the class, the goal is to have each student recording a score of 3.  Mid-way through the class period, the instructor takes a break to evaluate where they are at.  The instructor will ask students what gaps they have preventing them from achieving a 3.  A discussion ensures and the remainder of the class is focused on closing those knowledge gaps.

David suggests that these metacognitive exercises are trying to “…force students to think about their own learning practices. The goal here is to make students’ behavior visible to themselves, with an eye toward gaining better control over that behavior.”

If metacognition leads to “better learning” as David suggests, how are we facilitating these ideas in our own classrooms?  By shifting the intellectual responsibility to the students, can we enable them to become more self-aware, more responsible for their own learning, and better situated for life after college?  No doubt, these metacognitive and reflective practices can only help students to achieve the aforementioned qualities.

David concludes by saying, “Too often, we assume that students know enough about themselves that our comments and suggestions will be enough to provoke positive change. But self-awareness and self-reflection (not to mention good study habits) are not skills all students possess. Promoting those skills in class can make our lives as teachers a lot easier.”

So let’s follow his charge and continue to explore what it looks like to facilitate metacognitive and reflective practices in the classroom not only for the sake of the students, but for the sake of the educators too.


Link to blog post:

Muddiest Point: Reflecting back to move forward

For the purposes of learning, reflection can be thought of as intentional bridging between past experience and future action. If getting your students to reflect sounds too complicated and time-consuming to fit into your busy ten-week quarter, consider an example of reflection that has all of the essential features but only takes a few minutes: an efficient, simple assessment technique popularly called “Muddiest Point” that can be applied in virtually any learning context.Reflection

After some kind of learning experience (e.g., lecture, group activity, paper), you give your students a minute to write down what they find the most unclear or confusing—the “muddiest point.” Students can benefit a surprising amount from the mere minute dedicated to this reflection activity. They practice greater awareness of their learning, and repetition can help develop habits to support lifelong learning. Students who recognize where their understanding is “muddy” are also better positioned to direct their learning to remedy this. To better support this, you can also ask students to identify one thing they could do to improve their understanding of their “muddiest point”—perhaps a study group, office hours, reading, or practice exercises.

This reflection activity can inform your future action as the educator, too—not just the students’. Students’ responses help you gauge their learning and guide how you might help them address their “muddiest points.”

Compact reflection activities like “Muddiest Point” are easy to incorporate into most courses. More extensive reflection activities can help students get more learning out of educational experiences and make more numerous and deeper connections. Such activities might have students dedicating more time to the reflection and/or entail reflecting on experiences over a longer span of time.

For instance, mid-way through a multi-week team project, you could have your students write about how they and their peers could improve at being a successful team. For even larger-scale reflection, you could have your students write about how learning in prior courses contributed to their successful completion of some kind of culminating work, e.g., an honors thesis or engineering capstone.

Helping students develop habits of reflecting can help them get more out of their educational experiences. With reflection, individual experiences become more meaningful, and connections to future experiences and goals become apparent. This helps integrates otherwise disparate days, weeks, quarters, and years of education, with the ultimate goal of lifelong learning.

Ken Yasuhara serves as the UW campus lead for the Consortium to Promote Reflection in Engineering Education (CPREE) and is a research scientist at the Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT).

The original post can be found at:

Engineering Education – Past and Present

Engineering has no doubt, progressed in the last 150 years. The commercial airplane, personal automobile, and the computer are some of the marvels that engineers have produced. Engineering pedagogy and curriculum have unquestionably changed as well. I recently skimmed through a book written in 1918 by Charles Riborg Mann on the subject of engineering education, highlighting the present conditions, current problems, and suggested solutions for engineering education. Among the problems, Mann lists admission, time constraints, course content, testing and grading, and shop work as main sections for discussion. As we enter 2015, we continue to see the same repeated discussions as 100 years prior. [1]

In the compilation, Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century published by the National Academy of Engineering, a discussion ensues about the outlook of engineering education. In a section entitled, “Pursue Student-Centered Education,” it is stated that “one should address how students learn as well as what they learn in order to ensure that student learning outcomes focus on the performance characteristics needed in future engineers. Two major tasks define this focus: (1) better alignment of engineering curricula and tpic_engineering_degreehe nature of academic experiences with the challenges and opportunities graduates will face in the workplace and (2) better alignment of faculty skill sets with those needed to deliver the desired curriculum in light of the different learning styles of students.” [2]

It is a continual struggle to define what the “best” approach to educating engineers is. Will that come with improved curriculum? Better grading? Or does the key lie in how we assist students in drawing meaning and significance from their work thus motivating them to continue to pursue engineering with excellence? We believe that reflection plays a vital role in helping students to draw significance and understanding from their rigorous studies.

Even as we continually make strides towards improving engineering education, we will still ask similar questions as Professor Mann in 1919, “Do we need fewer or more schools? Is the curriculum too long or too short? Should the engineering school be made a graduate professional school? What are the present demands of science, of industry, and of education? How well are the schools meeting these demands? What changes, if any, seem desirable?” [1]

Lauren Sepp is a graduate student in the department of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington. She is also a  research assistant for CPREE. (
[1] Mann, Charles Riborg. “A study of engineering education.” Bulletin 11 (1918).
[2] Phase, I. I. Educating the Engineer of 2020:: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century. National Academies Press, 2005.

Designing for Slowness

The Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) Conference on Human Factors in Computer Systems (CHI) is an annual event where many researchers in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) meet to present novel findings and various studies. In 2014, several awards for Best Paper were distributed. One award was given for a paper entitled, Designing for Slowness, Anticipation, and Re-visitation: A Long Term Field Study of the Photobox. [1] This paper is an interesting study in which researchers placed wooden boxes containing computers and a printer in participants’ homes. These boxes had access to each participant’s Flickr archives, and would randomly select 4-5 photos from participants’ digital photo archives to print out each month at unspecified intervals. The study prompted an investigation into the ways in which individuals use the physical artifacts of photos to reflect on, and revisit experiences or periods of time that were previously captured and stored in their digital Flickr archive.

The study ultimately found that:

“Experiences of living with slow technology provoked participants to broadly reflect on the role of technology in their everyday lives. The Photobox was ultimately successful at opening up new experiences for participants with their photo collections, and in some cases, older photo curation processes emerged.” [1]

In our world today, we are inundated by the latest technologies, and digital methods which help to organize our lives. Personal planners with worn and stained pages are rarely seen and have rather been replaced by digital calendars that alert us every time an item is due. Our music collections are no longer frustrated by the scratched CD’s or damaged cassette tapes piled in our car’s center console, they are instead crammed into Gigabytes on our iPods and smartphones.  Similarly, the number of pictures that we store on our telephones and computers has grown to an enormous size. This Photobox study is an interesting process of slowing technology down and taking a moment to revert to the physical artifacts of photographs.

The process of slowing technology down is a prime opportunity for reflection. Each participant in the study was reminded of events past as photographs arrived at random intervals. As we dive into what reflection means for ourselves and for students, we can be reminded that the process of slowing technology and approaches down can be helpful. Could we promote slow reflection? Many students are used to instantaneous results or communication – gone are the days of waiting to receive a letter in the mail from a loved one – cherishing it and re-reading it until the ink smears and the letter tears. How could our approach to reflection be modified to rekindle the effects of slowed, meaningful, and purposeful reflection?

Technology has many benefits that enable incredible technology to be a part of our lives, but value remains in slowing life down to reflect on the past to inform and enrich our lives as they move ahead.

Lauren Sepp is a graduate student in the department of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington. She is also a  research assistant for CPREE. (

Link to Paper:
[1] W. Odom, A. Sellen, R. Banks, D. Kirk, T. Regan, M. Selby, J. Forlizzi and J. Zimmerman, “Designing for Slowness, Anticipation, and Re-visitation: A Long Term Field Study of the Photobox,” in CHI, Toronto, 2014.

Reflection on Failure

Lauren Sepp

In light of the recent explosion of the Antares rocket, many engineers’ countless hours of preparation and calculation have resulted in a $200 million loss. While extremely disappointing, and the exact cause still unknown, the explosion provides an inviting backdrop for reflection. Many engineers must confront failure at one point or another during their career and whether that occurs in college or while launching a rocket, learning how to fail and reflecting on why can serve to broaden our approaches and perspectives.

rocket explosion[1]

In a journal article by Glenda S. Stump, Jenefer Husman, and Marcia Corby, students’ beliefs about intelligence in relation to learning and successes and failures is discussed. Some students have the ability to view failure as a stepping stone to gaining knowledge and an indicator to try a new approach or study harder, while others “…view their failure as a reflection of their low ability. They begin to doubt their capability for success, and their self-efficacy for learning and performance begins to erode.” [2]

The experience of failure is a necessary part of the learning process and while the Antares rocket failure is a bit different than failing a term in school, it reminds us to press on through the difficult times, and that taking failed results and learning from them, to move forward boldly despite them, can be a positive addition to our education.

It is in this same spirit that the Associate Administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, William Gerstenmaier describes the outcome of the explosion:
“While NASA is disappointed that Orbital Sciences’ third contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station was not successful today, we will continue to move forward toward the next attempt once we fully understand today’s mishap. The crew of the International Space Station is in no danger of running out of food or other critical supplies. Orbital has demonstrated extraordinary capabilities in its first two missions to the station earlier this year, and we know they can replicate that success. Launching rockets is an incredibly difficult undertaking, and we learn from each success and each setback. Today’s launch attempt will not deter us from our work to expand our already successful capability to launch cargo from American shores to the International Space Station.” [3]

William Gerstenmaier is sharing the reflective stance of NASA’s engineers – that although the failure is extremely expensive and disappointing, they are well prepared to take it in stride, to improve on further iterations, and to move forward.

Discussing failures such as the Antares Rocket explosion, or other engineering failures remind students to not only take necessary measures to avoid catastrophic failure in engineering as an ethical consideration, but to consider this time in school as an opportunity to fail – it is unique in that the failures they encounter now are usually only represented by a letter grade, and it can be vital to take those in stride to improve approaches and methodology as to avoid catastrophic failure in their steps outside of college.


[1] NASA, “NASA Statement Regarding Oct. 28 Orbital Sciences Corp. Launch Failure,” NASA, 28 October 2014. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 29 October 2014].
[2] J. H. M. C. Glenda S Stump, “Engineering Students’ Intelligence Beliefs and Learning,” Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 103, no. 3, pp. 369-387, 2014.
[3] D. Szondy, “NASA Releases More Information on Antares Explosion,” Gizmag, 28 October 2014. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 29 October 2014].


Lauren Sepp is a graduate student in the department of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington. She is also a  research assistant for CPREE. (


Research Brief: Integrating Reflection into Engineering Education

By: Drs. Brook Sattler and Lauren Thomas, CPREE multi-campus coordinators

Early in the development of the Consortium to Promote Reflection in Engineering Education (CPREE), it was apparent that a framework to understand reflection in the context of engineering education was necessary. The topic is frequently researched and published in other disciplines, such as medicine, teacher education, and therapy, but less frequently in engineering education.  The authors of “Integrating Reflection into Engineering Education” ( Turns et al., 2014) develop and present a framework for thinking about reflective practices, explore how it is situated in theory, and provide examples within engineering education. Also, Turns et al. (2014) confront some of the realistic challenges of supporting reflection in engineering education. The authors propose seven elements of reflection: experience, features, lens, meaning, action, intentional, and dialectical. The elements are drawn from existing reflection theory and related theoretical perspectives to provide a rich framework to understand reflection, particularly in engineering education (p. 3). The easy-to-use examples enable the reader to apply the seven elements and consider how reflection may work in their particular context, class, or activity. They also acknowledge that there are difficulties and concerns that may particularly resonate with engineers, as they encounter reflection within the discipline.

Tips for educators presented in this work:

  • Think of how you may have or are currently including reflection in your practice with students. Using the examples provided, there are ways in which our students reflect, with or without us, which we can influence on a regular basis.
  • Use this framework. This paper provides an accessible way to operationalize reflection in the context of engineering education. Once you have identified a practice that may explicitly be reflection, consider each of the seven elements. Also, keep in mind that there are not always right and wrong answers.
  • Acknowledge the difficulties. What are some ways in which reflection is difficult for you? Are you hesitant to engage students in reflection and why? These questions and concerns are valid, and certainly inform our approach to using reflection as an educational practice. Keep in mind, that reflection can be done on a very small scale and remain relevant to developing future engineers.

Questions or challenges presented in this work:

  • Some of the elements of reflection may be challenging to grasp! Many of the instructors and researchers that we have talked with have had challenges understanding parts of the framework particularly, lens and meaning. Which of the seven elements are challenging for you?
  • What examples of reflective activity are you using with students?

Turns, J., Sattler, B., Yasuhara, K., Borgford-Parnell, J., & Atman, C.J. (2014). Integrating Reflection into Engineering Education. In ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition. Retrieved from