Research increasingly points to the act of reflection—looking to the meaning of past experiences to guide future action—as a critical component in enhancing one’s ability to learn.
As modern challenges create a demand for adaptive and broad-thinking engineers, researchers in HCDE’s Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT) have been looking at the impacts of incorporating reflection activities in engineering education, and its benefits for students and educators alike.
As part of this work, CELT led a consortium of twelve colleges and universities to integrate activities into their courses that promote student reflection, thanks to funding by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. Throughout the two-year Consortium to Promote Reflection in Engineering Education (CPREE), educators at the twelve partner institutions used reflection activities more than 1,000 times, resulting in 80,000 student experiences in reflection. Through interviews with students, the CELT team found that reflection activities had the effect of empowering students in many ways—empowering them to become more self-aware and successful students, and empowering them to make thoughtful links between their schooling and their professional aspirations. The CELT team synthesized and organized the findings into campus-specific reflection field guides to provide tips and inspiration for future exploration in classroom reflection.
In September 2017, Drs. Jennifer Turns and Cynthia Atman, Human Centered Design & Engineering professors and co-directors of CPREE, are hosting a workshop focused on the use of reflection in engineering education, to bring leaders in this emerging community together on the UW campus.
“The goals of the workshop include convening a community of like-minded people, and creating a place to share practical knowledge around best practices and evaluation of reflection activities,” Atman described.
Workshop attendees include representatives from the twelve consortium partner campuses and other educators from across the country.
“We are hoping to connect members of the engineering education community at-large, and work toward broadening the conversation around reflection,” Atman said. “We asked our workshop participants what they want from this, and they said that most importantly they want to connect with other people working in this field, and to discover opportunities to collaborate and build upon each other's work.”
In the months leading up to the workshop, participants have been collaborating online, completing a series of tasks encouraging them to reflect on their own experiences with reflection. During the workshop, participants will work with the others to create reflection activities and think about those activities from student and educator perspectives.
Atman and Turns are pleased CELT can lead this opportunity to bring this new community together. “When we started this work three years ago, it wasn’t clear how big the conversation on reflection could be. It’s not your typical buzzword in engineering,” Turns said. “So we are thrilled now that we have 60 people traveling from across the country, during a busy time when the academic year is ramping up, for the opportunity to explore reflection.”
The CPREE Reflection Workshop will be held September 14–15, 2017, at the UW Waterfront Activities Center.