Critical Thinking: Ziqian (Cecilia) Dong

Ziqian (Cecilia) Dong
Electrical and Computing Engineering
School of Engineering and Computing Sciences

Capstone Senior Design Courses (EENG 489 and EENG 491) are a sequence of one-year project courses where senior engineering students work in teams to tackle a real-world engineering challenge with innovative engineering design taking into account realistic constraints. Project teams are required to implement sub-systems, provide software simulations for testing and verification, as well as oral and written project demonstrations.

In-class peer review

One practice I used in my senior design class that is effective in exercising students' critical thinking is to have my students review and critique each other's proposals in class. All senior design teams are required to submit a proposal elaborating on what problem they are trying to solve and how they plan to design a system (hardware and software) to solve the problem. The proposals are subject to approval by a committee of faculty members.

Before their proposal defense, I asked my students to peer review their proposals. In class, we exchange proposal drafts among the project teams. Each team is given a certain amount of time to read and judge the quality of the proposal from another team. At the end of the session, each team presents how they would grade the proposal, explains what they like and dislike about the proposal they are reviewing and give the proposers suggestions on how to improve it. They are also encouraged to comment and reflect on their own proposal of what they have learned from others and what they would do to improve their own proposal. Students are very enthusiastic about critiquing others’ work. By engaging students in a reviewer role, students use critical thinking in analyzing others' work and reflect on their own. The class is more interactive and engaging. It also helps to build a sense of community when they help each other to improve.

Sample design projects:

Note: Engineering is FUN!
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