Problem solving is a major focus of the engineering profession, and upon graduation new engineers are faced with increasingly complex problems. Yet, existing engineering education practices often fall short in preparing students to tackle complex engineering problems that may be ambiguous, open-ended and ill-structured. In this paper, we describe a newly developed learning environment called the Engineering Learning Portal (ELP), which focuses on improving engineering problem solving throughout the industrial engineering curriculum. In the ELP, students are engaged in a structured process for solving unstructured problems while encouraging metacognitive activities, such as planning, monitoring, and evaluating. This helps students acquire the higher order cognition and integration of knowledge domains needed for effective engineering problem solving. In particular, a key element of the ELP is that it requires students to explain and evaluate their work while they are solving complex engineering problems. The underlying premise is that such metacognitive tasks are valuable to students because they eventually improve their engineering problem solving ability. We describe the ELP environment itself, our experience with implementing the environment in three industrial engineering classes, and how it has impacted engineering problem solving as part of the curriculum.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/frank_peters/14/