Work in Progress: Assessment of Reflective Thinking in Graduate Engineering Students: Human and Machine Methods

Roman Taraban, Micah Iserman, Jessica C. Pittman, Nigel Yeo, Ryan C. Campbell, Jeong Hee Kim, Danny D. Reible

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Engineering education is increasingly looking to the liberal arts to broaden and diversify preparation of students for professional careers. The present study involves an elective graduate environmental engineering course that incorporated the arts and humanities. The goal of the course was to develop engineers and technical professionals who would become both more appreciative of and better equipped to address technical, ethical, social, and cultural challenges in engineering through the development of critical and reflective thinking skills and reflective practice in their professional work. A reflective writing assignment was submitted by students following each of fourteen course topics in response to the following question: Reflect on how you might want to apply what you learned to your development as a professional and/or to your daily life. Student responses were classified by human coders using qualitative text analytic methods and their classifications were attempted to be learned by a simple machine classifier. The goal of this analysis was to identify and quantify students' reflections on prospective behaviors that emerged through participation in the course. The analysis indicated that the primary focus of students' responses was self-improvement, with additional themes involving reflection, teamwork, and improving the world. The results provide a glimpse into how broadening and diversifying the curriculum might shape students' thinking in directions that are more considerate of their contributions to their profession and society. In the discussion, we consider the findings from the human and machine assessments and suggest how incorporating AI machine methods into engineering provides new possibilities for engineering pedagogy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021


  • Machine analysis
  • Qualitative data analysis
  • Reflective thinking
  • Reflective writing


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