Anna Douglas on Engineering Education Assessment Instruments

I am Anna Douglas and I conduct evaluation and assessment research with Purdue University’s Institute for Precollege Engineering Research; also known as INSPIRE. This post is about finding and selecting assessments to use in evaluation of engineering education programs.

Recent years have seen an increase in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education initiatives and emphasis on bringing engineering learning opportunities to students of all ages. However, in my experience, it can be difficult for evaluators to locate assessments related to learning or attitudes about engineering. When STEM assessment instruments are found, oftentimes they do not include anything specifically about engineering. Fortunately, there are some places devoted specifically to engineering education assessment and evaluation.

Rad Resource: INSPIRE has an Assessment Center website, which provides access to engineering education assessment instruments and makes the evidence for validity publicly available. In addition, INSPIRE has links to other assessment resources, such as Assessing Women and Men in Engineering, a program affiliated with Penn State University.

Rad Resource: ASSESS Engineering Education is a search engine for engineering education assessment instruments.

If you don’t find what you are looking for at the INSPIRE, AWE, or ASSESS databases, help may still be there.

Lesson Learned #1: If it is important enough to be measured for our project, someone has probably measured it (or something similar) before. Even though evaluators may not have access to engineering education or other educational journals, one place to search is Google Scholar with keywords related to what you are looking for.  This helps to 1) locate research being conducted in the similar engineering education area (and they may have used some type of assessment) and 2) locate published instruments, which one would expect has a degree of validity evidence.

Lesson Learned #2: People that develop surveys, generally like others to use them. It’s a compliment. It is ok to contact the authors for permission to use the survey and validity evidence collected, even if you can not access the article.  At INSPIRE, we are constantly involved in the assessment development process. When someone contacts us for use of an instrument, we view that as a “win-win”… the evaluator gets a tool, our instrument gets used, and with the sharing of data and/or results, we can get further information about how the instrument is functioning in different settings.

Lessons Learned #3: STEM evaluators are in this together. Another great way to locate assessment instruments is to post through the STEM RIG in LinkedIN, or pose the question to the EvalTalk listserv. This goes back to Lesson Learned #1: most of the important outcomes are being measured by others.

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