EVALUATION AND ESTIMATION IN ENGINEERING EDUCATION: WORK IN PROGRESS
The ability to evaluate, according to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, is one of the highest categories in the cognitive domain. Accordingly, the development of the ability to evaluate is one of the the important pedagogical goals. The evaluation includes the capacity to make judgments about the quality of work based on a set of criteria. Estimation is a judgment that is based on a calculation of approximate physical or statistical parameters. Evaluation and estimation are both an inevitable part of engineering practice, and they are a method for problem solving in the process of engineering design and product development.
Usually, these methods are not taught in the engineering curriculum in a methodical way. The underline assumption is that the students can develop their evaluation skills in their practical work, after they finish their studies. The pedagogical practice of the authors show that engineering students have various difficulties in evaluation and estimation in problem solving, laboratory experiments and design projects. The meta – analysis of the authors’ previous qualitative researches, which were carried out during the last ten years, revealed a number of typical problems. Engineering students can be inaccurate with measurement units, they do not check if the results of engineering problem solving, which represent physical and statistical parameters, are sensible, and they do not examine if their results of the engineering design meet the design demands. A number of examples of student’s misestimations are presented in the full paper.
Based on these facts, the authors claim that engineering students do not understand the importance of evaluation and estimation in engineering practice. One possible reason for this problem may be incorrect learning habits which were developed in high school. Students think that the main goal of problem solving is to receive the answer. The single way of checking its correctness was comparing the result with the answer given at the end of schoolbook or with the answers of other students. This approach does not contribute to the development of the student’s reflection skills and prevents the evaluation and estimation of the results in engineering problem solving. An additional reason can be the students’ misunderstanding of a basic engineering goal, which is solving concrete real-life problems. Therefore, the calculated results must be close to real-life results, and their evaluation and estimation is necessary for engineer.
With the aim of helping students understand the real spirit of engineering, educators should emphasize engineering principles. Including evaluation and estimation issues into the engineering curriculum can be an effective tool for attaining this goal. The authors plan a future research for deeper investigation of the problem and for finding how the issues of evaluation and estimation can be taught.