Balancing curriculum design trade-offs for larger learning goals: A synthesized model

Richard J. Aleong, Molly H. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Engineering educators face a number of instructional trade-off decisions that may be experienced as tensions in curriculum design. To navigate these tensions, we present a synthesized model based on experiential learning theory, novice-expert development, and design learning and practice. Our model highlights how different mechanisms may support students in a back-and-forth movement between learning general engineering tools and that of particular cases that utilize engineering tools. With this model, we focus our attention on students’ professional and personal development towards larger system learning goals that encompass engineering formation and students’ personal growth. In the context of an introductory engineering design and graphics course, we utilize this model to develop a series of reflection exercises that aim to elicit students’ thinking about connections between their coursework and future careers. Two student reflections are presented to illustrate the model and its features for supporting critical reflection and meaning-making of educators’ instructional practice. As engineering educators are continually challenged to navigate curriculum decision-making, this paper highlights opportunities for curriculum reframing that balances the need for students’ holistic personal and professional formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)556-567
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020


  • Curriculum and instructional design
  • Experiential learning
  • Professional formation
  • Scholarship of teaching and learning
  • Student reflections

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Engineering(all)


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