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.