Scaffolding and assessing professional design skills using an active-learning studio style classroom

Jamie Lynn Brugnano, Kevin Andrew Richards, Marcia A. Pool, Allison L. Sieving, Juan Diego Velasquez, Sherry L. Voytik-Harbin, Ann E. Rundell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Upon graduation, engineers are expected to have not only technical expertise but also professional skills which will help secure their success as practicing engineers. A studio-style course that complements and supplements a traditional laboratory capstone design experience was designed to teach biomedical engineering professional skills. This course scaffolds student's practice, enables demonstration of professional skills proficiency in this class, and supports the associated senior design laboratory assignments. Herein, we describe the pedagogical approach, course content and design, plus direct and indirect assessment results. Fifty-four senior biomedical engineering undergraduate students were enrolled in this course which addressed biomedical engineering professional skills including: ethics, technical writing, regulatory issues, human and animal subjects, economic considerations, and entrepreneurship considerations. The class met once a week for 90 minutes with a brief introductory lecture (< 20 minutes) followed by time dedicated for students to work on in-class assignments, both individually and in their design teams with instructor interactions. To ensure students demonstrated proficiency in each topic, students revised their assignments based upon constructive feedback until it was satisfactory. Scaffolding was provided through assignment design, instructor feedback during the studio session, and in written feedback on assignments. The students would subsequently complete related assignments for their associated lab course employing a fading strategy. Student assessment was achieved through graded weekly assignments, while course assessment and effectiveness was determined through Internal Review Board-approved analysis of student grades and student surveys. Student written feedback was analyzed using inductive analysis and the constant comparative method by an expert in qualitative data analysis who was external to the course. Assignments were evaluated according to Bloom's Taxonomy and mapped to Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) criteria. The course format ensured that students had the opportunity to practice and demonstrate proficiency in the professional skills measured prior to independent application within the associated senior design laboratory assignments. On average, students were required to revise 3- 4 assignments out of 14 total assignments to demonstrate skill/concept proficiency. A Bloom's Taxonomy analysis showed that all assignments required students to perform at the level of evaluation and synthesis. Through assignment evaluation, we discovered that our seniors struggled with course topics on design of experiments and statistical analysis; this prompted a revision of a pre-requisite course. Overall, students had a positive response to the course format and valued the skills that were being taught. There was an increase in the percentage of students who believed that they had in-depth knowledge of course topics by the conclusion of the course. In summary, course objectives were achieved and students demonstrated proficiency of the professional design skills. This pedagogical approach towards teaching these professional skills was found to be engaging and effective; it may be broadly applicable to other biomedical engineering programs and engineering disciplines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
PublisherAmerican Society for Engineering Education
ISBN (Print)9780878232413
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
Event119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - San Antonio, TX, United States
Duration: Jun 10 2012Jun 13 2012

Publication series

NameASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Electronic)2153-5965


Other119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Antonio, TX

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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