Multifaceted Learning Objective Assessment in a Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design Course
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This thesis details multi method research approaches that have been used to study student learning objective instruction and assessment in the mechanical engineering (ME) capstone course at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). A primary focus of the research is to evaluate the pilot implementation of a Writing Fellows (WF) program in the ME capstone course, which has been assessed using a variety of techniques. The assessment generally indicates positive results. In particular, students favor the continuation of the program and find it more helpful than group consultations within the University Writing Center (UWC) alone. Self-assessment by the students indicates higher confidence in their communication skills, while preliminary analysis suggests that the writing fellow improved the scores of graded assignments by approximately one-third of a letter grade overall. Assessment efforts also highlight the need for deeper interaction between the WF and engineering faculty. A secondary focus of this research presents a methodology that has been developed and used to analyze how the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology’s (ABET’s) current Criterion 3 Student Outcomes (SOs) have been assessed in UNR’s ME capstone class over several academic years. The methodology generally finds levels of ABET SO assessment in agreement with departmental and industry-held expectations for capstone courses at large. Finally, an analysis of student grades in the capstone course finds significant differences across semesters and identifies several potential causes.