There are increasingly frequent calls to incorporate reflection into engineering education. Much of this past focus has been on the use of reflection in teaching engineering design (e.g. Adams et al., 2003; Cross, 2004). However, there is also a perceived value in incorporating reflective practices into courses which are not specifically focused on design. If we are able to incorporate reflection into what “the students learn engineering to be” (Jolly, 1999)—meaning, the engineering science courses which make up the vast majority of most undergraduate curricula—reflection is expected to contribute to learning outcomes and students’ development of metacognitive and social skills (Kavanagh, 2008).
Because exams are generally used for formative assessment, they are rarely also leveraged as an opportunity for students to measure their learning with an eye toward improvement, developing reflection skills in the process. A few researchers have previously designed assignments in which students reflect on their exam performance and characterize the errors that were made (Wynne, 2010; Benson and Zhu, 2015). However, a systematic comparison of the learning achieved by students who complete exam reflection exercises and a comparable group of students who complete a control exercise has not been previously done.
We have initiated such research by adapting Benson and Zhu’s tool (2015), which they refer to as the Exam Analysis and Reflection (EAR) procedure, in an introductory electrical circuits course. In their work, Benson and Zhu ask students to respond to three reflection prompts for each question they got wrong on an exam. The prompts lead the students through identifying and analyzing the mistakes they made and proposing what they can do to avoid similar issues in the future.
This study employs the EAR in a large introductory circuits course for non-majors. The multi-section, multi-instructor nature of the course provides a natural platform for building upon Benson and Zhu’s work. This study began in the fall of 2015. Over the three semesters since it began, we have split the sections of the course into an intervention group, where the adapted EAR process is followed after each exam as an optional extra credit exercise, and a control group, in which students are given the option of extra credit by solving an additional problem. In two occasions, we had a control section and intervention section both taught by the same instructor in the same semester, which provides particularly rich comparison data.
We have collected data related to student participation, the quality of their work in both the control and the interventions, and the scores on their final examination. In our paper, the analysis of this data will be presented to determine the efficacy of the EAR and understand if this form of reflection can lead to improved student learning outcomes in undergraduate engineering education.
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