EVALUATING “INDEPENDENT” ASSESSMENT OF CAPSTONE PROJECTS BY MECHANICAL ENGINEERING STUDENTS
Dublin Institute of Technology (IRELAND)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN11 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Conference name: 3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2011
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:Capstone projects by mechanical engineering students in Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) are designed to give students an opportunity to showcase the skills they have developed. To successfully complete substantial capstone projects students must typically demonstrate skills of project planning, time management, negotiation, component sourcing and an awareness of the multi-disciplinary nature of engineering in addition to the application of technical knowledge. A key element stressed during review milestones is that students be able to explain and justify their work before a panel of technical experts.
The DIT Mechanical Engineering Department introduced a system of “blind” assessment on a pilot basis for the Bachelor of Engineering technology students in 2010. Under this system assessors are not ordinarily involved with teaching or mentoring the student, or with any other part of the project, on a day to day basis. Consequently, the assessors are unaware of the project details in advance of the assessment session and must rely on the student to describe and defend the project and the approach taken. More specifically, in the format that was piloted the student’s supervisor does not attend the sessions at which students present their work. This approach is closer to the post-college environment in which most engineers will have to work and therefore gives them simulated workplace experiences. Such "approximations of practice" (Grossman et al, 2007) have several benefits but also potential disadvantages.
A review has recently been conducted to evaluate the process from the perspective of both students and staff with a view to determining whether or not this structure should be continued with. This paper documents the rationale behind the concept, the logistical challenges, and an analysis of the feedback received from both students and staff as part of the review. In addition, future plans to improve the fairness, consistency and transparency of the assessment process for such projects are discussed.
Keywords: Capstone project assessment, blind assessment.