(566c) Self-Reflection Assignments for Evaluating Non-Technical Skills and Setting Goals for Professional Development | AIChE

(566c) Self-Reflection Assignments for Evaluating Non-Technical Skills and Setting Goals for Professional Development


Ford Versypt, A. N. - Presenter, Oklahoma State University
The presentation will focus on a series of class exercises called â??self-reflection assignmentsâ? that have been used in two offerings of the undergraduate chemical kinetics course at Oklahoma State University (OSU) and will provide evidence to support the impact of the activities. The self-reflection assignments involve brief essays and goal setting related to professional, non-technical or â??softâ? skills. The assignments were adapted from a document called the Self-Evaluation Rubric originally developed for a physics laboratory course at Berkeley used for guided reflection assignments. The outcomes of the assignments have not been previously measured and reported in an engineering course. The Self-Evaluation Rubric contains a list of primary and advanced non-technical skills important for scientists and engineers. These skills include persistence, organization, connections, self-compassion, courage, mental resourcefulness, communication, diligent skepticism, collaboration, and reflection. In Spring 2015 & 2016, written assignments were used in the OSU CHE 3123 course to foster development of non-technical, professional skills. Five times during the semester, junior level undergraduate students (63 in the first offering and 81 in the second) were given an essay prompt to use the Self-Evaluation Rubric to identify one or more skills to work on in the following two-week period (first essay) or one-month period (subsequent essays except the last). In their essays, students were asked to assess their current proficiency level (beginning, developing, or succeeding) in the skill according to the detailed description in the Self-Evaluation Rubric, describe their goals related to the skill and their plan for improvement, and share progress in the skill(s) if any had been made since the previous essay submissions. This process required the students to identify the change they want to make, come up with a plan to implement that change, be consistent in their implementation, and frequently assess how their changes worked. The essays were submitted electronically as homework assignments (worth 3 points out of 1000 each for a total of 1.5% of the total course grade) and were graded for completion. The instructor provided electronic feedback through the classroom management system ranging from one sentence to a few paragraphs praising studentsâ?? efforts, making suggestions, or answering questions that arose in the essays. Besides the intended goal of professional skill development, the assignments also gave the students practice with written communication and forged connections between the students and the faculty instructor for the course.

A classroom research study was conducted in Spring 2016 to assess the impact of the assignments using pre- and post-assignment surveys of student perceptions of their non-technical skill levels (beginning, developing, or succeeding) and their opinions on the impact of the assignments on any changes in their skill levels. The hypothesis is that the self-reflection assignments positively impact student progression toward higher levels of non-technical skills. Further, we hypothesize that skills that students focus on actively and skills that students are simply made aware of through the exercises and do not actively reflect on in course assignments improve during the semester with some level of attribution to the self-reflection assignments. The research study involves surveying students before and after the series of self-reflection assignments to quantitatively assess changes in aggregate skill levels using the Self-Evaluation Rubric and student perceptions of their own proficiencies in the skills. The Self-Evaluation Rubric has been published under a creative commons license, and educational research on the content of student reflections using the rubric in a physics class has been published in the physics education literature. In this study, we quantified the number of students that rank themselves as beginning, developing, or succeeding for each of the 10 skills on the rubric before and after the use of self-reflection assignments in the course. Our surveys also included open-ended questions about potential causes for skill level changes, if any, about skills they focused on throughout the term for the self-reflection assignments, and about their opinions of the self-reflection assignments in general. These surveys were administered anonymously and electronically without inclusion of any identifying information. Student participation in the surveys for the research study is optional. Student self-reflection assignment submissions were not utilized in the study. The data will be presented in aggregate form. This research methodology was approved by the OSU Institutional Research Board.

The research may produce new knowledge on the efficacy of the self-reflection assignments in improving non-technical skills in the context of an engineering course. Testing the hypothesis through the survey assessments will provide quantitative feedback on whether or not this instructional technique should be recommended for use in future course offerings and in other engineering courses at OSU and at other academic institutions. Non-technical skill development is important for engineering undergraduate programs as these skills comprise a significant portion of the required student outcomes for engineering baccalaureate degree program accreditation. The research study data collection is ongoing. Data will be analyzed in Summer/Fall 2016 for inclusion in the presentation. The limited sample of the results available at the time of abstract submission positively support the hypothesis.