2023 – A Year of Reflection

2023 is turning out to be a year of reflection. It is also my first year of retirement after 50 years as an engineering education faculty member. Early this year Tony Starfield and I were invited to write a reflection on the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of our book, How to model it: Problem solving for the computer age. The folks at the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP) discovered our book and liked the approach we used to help learners develop modeling thinking skills. Our reflection was published in the Summer 2023 issue of The Journal of Undergraduate Mathematics and its Applications (UMAP) and was accompanied by an appreciative introduction and a thoughtful review. Articles posted with permission of the Editor, Paul J. Campbell.

Beecher, A. & Blyman, K. (2023). Teaching modeling: Needle found in a haystack. The UMAP Journal 44 (2) (2023) 103–105.

Smith, K.A. & Starfield, A.M. (2023). Reflections on modeling and teaching modeling.  The UMAP Journal 44 (2) (2023) 107–116.

Marland, E. (2023). Reviews. The UMAP Journal 44 (2) (2022) 182–184..

In the Spring Rich Felder and I were invited to write a chapter for Contemporary Global Perspectives on Cooperative Learning on our involvement with the development and implementation of cooperative learning in engineering education. It was a delight to work with Rich and quite a nostalgia trip to reflect on my involvement with the development and introduction of cooperative learning. In addition to our stories, we summarize the research case for cooperative learning, suggestions for implementing, and how to address common challenges.  Coopertive Learning in Engineering Education – link to draft

Ruth Streveler and I continue to reflect on our experience with Content, Assessment, and Pedagogy: An Integrated Engineering Design (CAP), a foundation course in the Purdue Engineering Education PhD program, and the implications and application for learning after the time of coronavirus. The critical feature of the CAP framework is the alignment of each component (content, assessment, and pedagogy) with each other. And we propose that alignment is operationalized by placing what you want learners to retain long after instruction (the enduring outcomes) at the center of the design. We assert that assessment and pedagogy need to flow from the enduring outcomes. And we also assert that feedback (not “grading”) is the most important aspect of assessment, and that practice is the key feature of pedagogy. Course design in the time of coronovirus: Put on your designers CAP – link to the article

A little over 25 years ago Lyle Feisel, then editor of the Journal of Engineering Education (JEE) Academic Bookshelf column, asked me to succeed him. I accepted the editorship and the topic of the first column for the April 1997 issue was reflection. I summarized books by Donald Schon, Ray Nickerson, Steven Brookfield and others. The 1997 JEE Academic Bookshelf Reflection column is available here. I’ve been considering revisiting the Academic Bookshelf column for some time and now that I have more free time, am actively pursuing it. I wrote sixteen columns over the four plus years serving as editor of the column. Most of the topics are ripe for revisiting and updating.

I am currently revisiting the topic of reflection and this visit is prompted by a book by Ellen Rose, On reflection: An essay on technology, education, and the status of thought in the twenty-first century. Rose’s On reflection is a deeply engaging and provocative essay on reflection, which takes Schon and Dewey to task, and raises concerns about the effect of technology on human thought and interaction.

I am also revisiting the October 2000 column where then Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Engineering Education, John Prados and I reflected on the future of the university. Our assessment of the future of higher education was positive although we emphasized that there was room for improvement. My reflections on the future of the University will be in two parts. Part 1 will focus on the impact of, and continuing recuperations of the pandemic and Part 2 will focus on a summary of the growing number of books on the current and future state of the university.

Stay tuned for when and where these revisited Academic Bookshelf columns appear.


Ruth Streveler wrote in response to my request for her comments, “This is a good compendium of your recent reflections and will give folks a convenient way to access what you have written. What I’d be very curious about is what is/was like for you to do this much reflection. Did you learn anything new? Any insights into reflection itself? Was it satisfying to reflect? Things like that. If you have interest in sharing those kinds of things with the world, I know I would be interested in reading about your experience.”

Oh, my goodness, I am so grateful to Ruth for suggesting that I engage in the space of personally reflecting on this experience. In some ways, this reminds me of “going meta”, which was a comment by participants in the Mentored Teaching in Engineering course I taught for several years, when we ventured beyond the readings and the conversation turned metacognitive. Apprentice Faculty Member, Moses Olayemi, was particularly delighted to “go meta.” The term “metacognition” was coined by John Flavell at the University of Minnesota in 1979 (Flavell, 1979). And so, I’m thinking, “why not go meta-reflective”?

I’ve enjoyed reading and, to a lesser extent, writing for many years (writing is hard work). I think it stems from two things, I am curious, and I love to learn. I tend to read widely and have a quirky memory. Colleagues often ask, “how do you remember so much”? I don’t know and I graciously accept and appreciate that I am able to remember lots of things and make interesting connections.

Revisiting the Journal of Engineering Academic Bookshelf columns I wrote many years ago was a bit daunting. I have been thinking they were important topics for the engineering education community and were in dire need of updating. I just didn’t know if I could do it. The experience of reflecting on How to Model It and the development and implementation of cooperative learning helped bolster my confidence. A broken ankle over a month ago provided the opportunity for a lot of reading and writing time.

I am finding that it gives me great joy to revisit and update the Academic Bookshelf columns. I am learning a lot, which is very satisfying. I hope my reflections will be interesting, useful, and valuable for the engineering education community.

Flavell, J. H. (1979). Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new area of cognitive–developmental inquiry. American Psychologist, 34(10), 906–911. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.34.10.906