Center for Instructional
Innovation and Assessment


Brian Burton
Janice Lapsansky
Jeff Newcomer
Goals Contents
Jeff Newcomer
Engineering Technology Department

Institutional Goals

Listed below are selected learning outcomes in the areas of critical thinking, writing, and information literacy that Western Washington University is actively integrating into its curriculum. Each learning outcome is listed with its definition, along with a description of how Jeff Newcomer's teaching strategies meet each of these student learning outcome goals.

Critical Thinking

Learning Outcomes Definition Course Outcomes
Identification Accurately identifies and interprets evidence. Each student must find the key decisions and events that led to the engineering failure.
Alternative Consideration Considers major alternative points of view. Each student must consider multiple sources of evidence, many of which will highlight different parts of the case.
Accurate Conclusions Draws warranted, judicious, non-fallacious conclusions. Each student must draw a conclusion as to the responsibilities and ethical issues based on the information they have found.
Justification Justifies key results and procedures, and explains assumptions and reasons. Each student must justify his or her conclusions to his or her classmates through both a presentation and written summary. The explanation should include both technical and ethical issues.

Adapted from the California Academic Press's Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric (HCTSR).

Information Literacy

Learning Outcomes Definition Course Outcomes
Identifying Need Recognizes and articulates the need for information, identifies potential sources, considers the costs and benefits, and reevaluates the nature and extent of the information need. Each student selects a case, but there is little to no information on that case in the course texts, so each student must find references that describe the case.
Search Strategies Matches information needs to information resources, organizes an effective search strategy and manages the information and its sources. Each student must find multiple references through internet and library searches.
Evaluating Evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system. As part of drawing conclusions regarding the case, each student must balance the information from different references and draw his or her conclusions. Since different references will reach different conclusions, each student must weigh the merits of each source.
Synthesis Applies new and prior information to the planning, creation, and revision of the development process, and communicates the product or performance effectively. To create an effective presentation and summary, each student must synthesize the information from the various sources into one coherent story.
Responsibility Understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally. As part of meeting individual responsibilities, each student must reference the sources he or she used in developing the case presentation and summary.

Adapted from the Association of College and Research Libraries' Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.


Learning Outcomes Definition Course Outcomes
Rhetorical Knowledge Focuses on a clear rhetorical purpose and responds appropriately to the needs of varied audiences and situations. Each student must write his or her case summary in an appropriate style for both technical writing and for the intended audience (peers).
Critical Analysis Develops, examines, situates, and communicates a reasoned perspective clearly to others. The written case summary needs to make it clear to the reader what the lesson of the case is. Each student must not only reach a conclusion on the case, but also situate that conclusion in the text such that it is obvious and unambiguous.
Composing Processes Understands writing as a recursive process that involves drafting, re-thinking, editing, re-conceptualizing. Each student is required to write a draft copy of the case summary. As part of the revising process, each student must take into account feedback from his or her classmates during the presentation, as well as feedback from the faculty.
Convention Knowledge Uses appropriate conventions for documentation and for surface features such as syntax, grammar, usage, punctuation, and spelling. The written case summary must be free of spelling and grammar errors.

Adapted from Western Washington University's Learning Outcomes for Writing II.

Quantitative Reasoning

Learning Outcomes Definition Course Outcomes
Mathematical Information Represent mathematical information symbolically, visually, numerically, and verbally./td> Information related to safety and accidents is often numerical, but is more effectively related visually. A classic case of (poor) visual representation of failure data is the graph of o-ring failures during launch as a function of temperature before the Challenger explosion. Students read about and discuss this information and its representation in Engineering and Society.
Mathematical Methods Use arithmetical, algebraic, geometric, and statistical methods to solve problems. Engineering relies on many mathematical methods, one of the simplest and most important of which is the free body diagram. As part of the examination of the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Walkway collapse, in both Applied Engineering Statics's and Engineering and Society, students develop a free body diagram for the system in order to show why the loads on the actual system were twice the size of the intended loads according to the original design.
Mathematical Models Interpret mathematical models such as formulas, graphs, tables, and schematics, and draw inferences from them. The calculation of stress in a structure based on loading is one of many types of mathematical models that engineers used that are directly related to safety. In Strength of Materials students look at the Hartford Civic Center roof collapse and analyze why the structure as built resulted in significantly higher stresses than the structure as designed.
Estimate and Check Estimate and check answers to mathematical problems in order to determine reasonableness, identify alternatives, and select optimal results. All good engineers know that all formulas and models cannot take all of the variation and uncertainty of the real world into account. As such, it is important for engineers and designers to have a working understanding of probability in order to assess risk in a meaningful manner. In Engineering and Society students critically analyze the space shuttle failure probability (1 in 10,000) given to Richard Feynman by managers at NASA to determine whether or not it is a realistic estimate. (It is not.)
Mathematical and Statistical Limits Recognize that mathematical and statistical methods have limits. Due to variation, uncertainty, and the human element in the system, it is important to for engineers to realize that none of the mathematical tools give absolute answers. Students explore this issue in Engineering and Society by looking at two things: how people engage in riskier behavior when they feel in control, and how humans are bad estimators of probability.

Adapted from Western Washington University's Learning Outcomes for Writing II.