Engineering Skills and not People through the First-year Design Experience and Service Learning

Jonathan Gaines
2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings   unpublished
This Complete Evidence-Based Practice paper draws from the pedagogical theory of servicelearning and how it is used to assess student perceptions of a first-year engineering design course at the University of South Florida. It applies the definition of service-learning by Oakes and Lima [1] as "a pedagogy that integrates service within a local, regional, or global community with academic learning". Also, in accordance with Oakes and Lima [1], the components of the course mirror traditional
more » ... ce-learning experiences in that it possesses four distinct and important components: 1. Service, 2. Academic content, 3. Partnerships and reciprocity, and 4. Reflection. However, course outcomes stop short of service-learning's more ambitious hope-to change students' values and level of civic responsibility. Although increased interest in civic engagement may be worthwhile, logistical challenges for large lecture courses may be minimized by broadening the definition of service-learning to focus on more salient areas of development. In addition, the types of immersive experiences possible on a smaller scale may not be consistently possible in large lecture courses. In spite of these limitations, service-learning in the context of this course may be a useful means to introduce valuable engineering skills. A service-learning course structure developed to achieve engineering skill development is presented along with course evaluation data from the first semester of its implementation. A problem-based course model [2] is used to demonstrate service-learning's potential. Course outcomes aim to provide project management and engineering skills. An evaluation was completed using an adapted form of Gelmon et al. [3] pre-and post-test service-learning survey to better understand student perceptions of the course on 1. Engineering skills, 2. Learning, 3. Aspirations, and 4. Social responsibility. The data suggests that students who completed both the pre-and post-surveys thought the course was a worthwhile endeavor for learning and maintained positive beliefs about their skill development. However, the students' perceptions of the course's potential impact on personal values remained relatively the same. This suggests that the curriculum was effective considering its course outcomes. Ultimately, this paper provides an example for curriculum design and evaluation that may help frame service-learning courses in the future and encourage future research on attitude change in similar contexts. According to O'Grady, most students seem to not realize outcomes around social responsibility, citizenship, and civic engagement. Two questions might be asked from this quote. Firstly, do practitioners know what it takes to realize these outcomes? Secondly, are these the right outcomes for every situation? There is evidence in the literature that practitioners do not understand how to make the experience "concrete" or what other potential service-learning might have. A third question emerges. Is service-learning "service-learning" if lasting social change is not realized? These questions are relevant to service-learning and the field of engineering
doi:10.18260/1-2--32734 fatcat:pp54ecn3b5fizkp6ttqwaqm7pe