Work in progress - spiral curriculum approach to reformulate engineering curriculum
ABSTRACT A theme-based spiral curriculum approach is being adopted to initiate the department-level reform (DLR) of the freshman engineering and the bioprocess engineering curricula at Virginia Tech. A large number of engineering faculty members are collaborating with experts in educational psychology and academic assessment to accomplish the objectives of this 3-year NSF supported project that began in September 2004. Successful implementation of the spiral approach will be used as a model for incorporating similar reforms in other engineering departments and elsewhere
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ABSTRACT: Although hypnosis has been used for centuries, there are few reports of systematic, professional training. The most thorough codification of instructional content is the Standards of Training in Clinical Hypnosis (SOTCH) (Elkins & Hammond, 1994), endorsed by The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH), and The Society of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (SCEH) for annual workshops. This curriculum is organized around two assumptions: training is presented to adult professional who know their own objectives; and each participant has a favorite learning style that should be accommodated. The workshop follows the content and time recommendations of the SOTCH. Some content is scheduled with spaced opportunity for practice. Concepts are organized in a spiral pattern, then presented and reviewed several times, each time in more detail, and in ways that accommodate different learning styles.The American journal of clinical hypnosis 10/2002; 45(2):119-28. · 0.53 Impact Factor
- Interactive Learning Environments - INTERACT LEARN ENVIRON. 01/1998; 6(3):205-224.
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ABSTRACT: Abstract Electronic portfolios (ePortfolios) were incorporated into the freshman engineering program,at Virginia Tech, one of the largest engineering programs in the US, in fall 2004. The addition of the ePortfolio resulted from a successful pilot study conducted as a componentof a NSF Bridges for Engineering Education planning grant awarded,to Virginia Tech’s Engineering Education Department and the School of Education in 2003. This paper will present a review of ePortfolio applications in engineering instruction. Sample assignments and grading rubrics for the Virginia Tech assignments will be discussed. Based on evaluation of the student ePortfoliosand surveys of the students and faculty involved, the value of the electronic portfolio in the learning process is analyzed. Recognizing that the expected benefit of the ePortfolio can only be realized if the use of the portfolio is continued throughout the engineering curriculum, the paper will conclude01/2005;
0-7803-9077-6/05/$20.00 © 2005 IEEE October 19 – 22, 2005, Indianapolis, IN
35th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference
Work in Progress - Spiral Curriculum Approach to
Reformulate Engineering Curriculum
Vinod K. Lohani1, Kumar Mallikarjunan2, Mary Leigh Wolfe2 ,Terry Wildman3, Jeff Connor1, John Muffo4, Jenny Lo1, Tamara
W. Knott1, G. V. Loganathan5, Richard Goff1, Mike Chang2, John Cundiff2,Greg Adel6, Foster Agblevor2, Mike Gregg1 , David
Vaughan2, Ed Fox7, Hayden Griffin1, Saied Mostaghimi2
1Department of Engineering Education/ 2Biological Systems Engineering / 3Center for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
/4Academic Assessment Unit/5Civil and Environmental Engineering/6Mining and Minerals Engineering/7Computer Science
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061
Abstract – A theme-based spiral curriculum approach is
being adopted to initiate the department-level reform
(DLR) of the freshman engineering and the bioprocess
engineering curricula at Virginia Tech. A large number of
engineering faculty members are collaborating with
experts in educational psychology
assessment to accomplish the objectives of this 3-year NSF
supported project that began in September 2004.
Successful implementation of the spiral approach will be
used as a model for incorporating similar reforms in other
engineering departments and elsewhere.
Index Terms – Department-level reform, Spiral curriculum, e-
portfolio, Assessment, Freshman engineering, Bioprocess
In September 2004, a NSF sponsored collaborative project
(hence after referred to as the DLR project), involving
engineering and education faculty members at Virginia Tech
(VT), was launched to undertake department-level reform
(DLR) of the freshman engineering (also called General
Engineering (GE)) within the Department of Engineering
Education (EngE) and the bioprocess engineering option
within the Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) program
using a theme based spiral curriculum approach. This project
follows a planning grant from the NSF (i.e., Bridges for
Engineering Education – Virginia Tech (BEEVT)) . The
goal of BEEVT was to initiate long-lasting collaborative
relationships among VT engineering and education faculty, K-
12 educators, corporations, and policy/decision makers
throughout Virginia and the DLR project represents an initial
success of this collaborative.
The twentieth century psychologist, Jerome Bruner,
proposed the concept of the spiral curriculum. Bruner
advocates that a curriculum as it develops should revisit the
basic ideas repeatedly, building upon them until the student
has grasped the full formal apparatus that goes with them .
In the proposed GE – BSE curricular reformulation, a theme
of sustainability has been selected to provide a contextual
framework. The supporting principles of design, ethics, and a
systems approach and crosscutting skills of communication,
teamwork, life-long learning, research experience, and new
laboratory experience will be woven throughout the curricula.
The bioprocess engineering option within the BSE was
selected because it is a relatively new program in the emerging
field of biotechnology. Bioprocess engineering encompasses
a wide spectrum of engineering practices involving the
utilization of a wide range of biological feedstocks for the
production of food, fiber, and value added products such as
pharmaceuticals, biofuels, plastics, pesticides, industrial
enzymes, and processed foods.
Bruner’s theory on spiral curriculum has been adopted for
reformulating diverse academic curricula [3-6]. Results of a
successful project-based spiral curriculum design,
implementation, and evaluation in chemical engineering at
Worcester Polytechnic Institute are presented in a series of
In the present DLR project, three sub-groups of the
investigators have been formed to initiate the proposed
reformulation activities. Following sections present a brief
progress to date.
THEME-BASED SPIRAL CURRICULUM
A spiral curriculum work session, led by the educational
psychologist (Wildman) of the group, was held in the
beginning of spring 2005 to begin the process of spiral
reformulation. The group discussed some beginning questions
like: i) What educational purpose suggest the need for re-
design?, ii) What learning goals do we hope to accomplish?,
iii) What conceptions of learning and student development
guide the work that’s proposed in DLR project? It was decided
that the BSE faculty would present ideas for spiral
reformulation and spiral threads to the rest of the group for
initiating the proposed reformulation.
The BSE faculty identified the top-level skills needed by
the student upon graduation from the program. Then, for each
top-level skill, the knowledge, skills and activities required to
master the top-level skill were identified and represented in a
concept map. The BSE faculty also formed a study group to
brainstorm the skill sets and develop the concept maps. After
several sessions, the top-level skills identified included the
following: (1) design a reactor, (2) design a process and
optimize the process conditions, (3) select units in the process
and design a plant layout, and (4) control the process and
validate the process for safety and quality compliance. To
design a reactor, then, the student would need skills and
0-7803-9077-6/05/$20.00 © 2005 IEEE October 19 – 22, 2005, Indianapolis, IN
35th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference
knowledge related to various process parameters. To control
the process parameters, an understanding of material and
energy balance, mass and heat transfer mechanisms, chemical
reactions and kinetics, material handling, economics, ethics,
biology are needed. To further understand the reactor design,
one would need to know the material handling principles,
properties of raw materials, finished products and intermediate
products, and the environmental impact of the waste. Similar
concept maps have been developed for all the major skills.
The next steps are to compile the skills sets, which will lead to
sub-groups of knowledge acquisition at various levels of the
program. Then the sub-groups of knowledge acquisition will
be grouped into courses for in the curriculum. It is anticipated
that sub-groups of knowledge will reappear in different
courses during the curriculum, each time at a progressively
higher level of learning and complexity.
A sub-group of DLR investigators designed a research-based
activity for freshman engineering students enrolled in spring
semester “engineering exploration” course to generate
meaningful data for analysis. This activity involved a simple
reactor and an enzyme-catalyzed hydrolysis reaction. A BSE
faculty delivered a one hour lecture on the fundamentals of
enzyme catalysis reactions and the significance of those types
of reactions in real life scenarios. The students were also
given the opportunity to understand the need for this type of
knowledge in pursuing a career in selected engineering fields.
The students were then asked to perform the hydrolysis of dL-
BAPA, a chromogenic peptide, by Trypsin, a protease enzyme
extracted from pancreas. The simple reaction changes the
solution from colorless to yellow. The students monitored the
progression of the reaction using a spectrophotometer and
analyzing the absorbance of a monochromatic light by the
products of the reaction. Through graphing and linear
regression analysis using MATLAB, the students fit the
measured reaction data to a Michaelis-Menton type reaction
and estimated the reaction parameters.
Electronic portfolio activities
Several DLR investigators are participating in VT’s pilot to
develop guidelines for using e-portfolio in engineering
instruction. In fall 2004, all engineering freshmen (~1250
students) used e-portfolio to reflect on their learning/design
experiences in a freshman engineering engineering course
. Use of e-portfolio in program assessment and upper level
courses in the BSE department is under discussion.
An assessment sub-group led by an assessment expert (Muffo)
initiated a number of data collection and analysis activities, for
the first time, in the GE program starting fall 2004 . For
example, a quick analysis of an exit survey, completed by
~210 engineering bound freshmen from “undecided/non-
engineering” majors, indicated that only about 33% students
became more interested in pursuing engineering curriculum
after taking the freshman year chemistry course. Further,
about 58% students’ interest in pursuing engineering career
increased as a result of taking an “engineering exploration”
first-year course. In spring 2005, for the first time, two focus
group interview sessions were conducted by the DLR project
assessment expert to assess learning outcomes of an
introductory engineering course. Similar efforts will be
extended to the BSE program in coming years.
This is the first time that faculty members in the EngE and
BSE departments are reformulating their curricula with the
assistance of experts in educational psychology and
assessment. Successful implementation of this theme-based
spiral curriculum will be used as a model for incorporating
similar reforms in other engineering departments in the
College of Engineering and elsewhere.
The financial support of the NSF (grant numbers 0342000 and
0431779) is sincerely acknowledged.
 Lohani, V.K., Sanders, M., Wildman, T., Connor, J., Mallikarjunan, K.,
Dillaha, T., Muffo, J., Knott, T.W., Lo, J., Loganathan, G.V., Adel, G.,
Wolfe, M.L., Goff, R., Gregg, M., Chang, M., Agblevor, F., Vaughan, D.,
Cundiff, J., Fox, E., Griffin, H., and Magliaro, S., 2005. ‘From BEEVT to
DLR: NSF Supported Engineering Education Projects at Virginia Tech, ’
Paper accepted for 2005 ASEE Annual Conference, June 12-15, Portland,
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 Knott, M., Lohani, V.K., Griffin, H., Loganathan, G.V., Adel, G., Paretti,
M., Wolfe, M., Mallikajunan, K., and Wildman, T., 2005, ‘Using e-
portfolios in a large engineering program.’ Paper accepted for 2005 ASEE
Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.
 DLR project Web site: www.dlr.enge.vt.edu