Invention & Design:
Dodge Evaluation

An Evaluation of a Course on Invention and Design for Gifted High School Students

Report Submitted to the Dodge Foundation

Jonathan A. Plucker
Department of Educational Studies
Curry School of Education
The University of Virginia

Michael E. Gorman
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
The University of Virginia

  • Introduction
  • Program Objectives
  • Evaluation Questions
  • Description of the Course
  • Evaluation Results
  • Appendices

  • Introduction

    This report summarizes the evaluation of the Invention and Design course that was offered twice during the summer of 1994 as part of the University of Virginia's Summer Enrichment Program (SEP). A variety of methods were used to collect data: intensive observations, seven surveys administered throughout the course, analysis of group notebook and individual journal entries, and interviews with students, counselors, and project staff. Each instrument that was used to collect evaluation data is included in the appendices, and detailed summaries of the collected data also appear in the appendices.

    We would like to personally thank the project staff, including the physics teacher, Michael Brittingham, and the consultant, Dr. Carolyn Callahan, and the counselors at the Summer Enrichment Program for their assistance and openness during the evaluation. We would also like to thank Darci Leib, the SEP director, and the rest of her staff for the extensive logistical support that was necessary for this course and evaluation to be successful.

    Program Objectives and Evaluation Questions

    The following program objectives and corresponding evaluation questions guided both the course and the evaluation:

    Program Objectives:

    Evaluation Questions:

    Brief Description of the Course

    According to a 1991 study done by the Manufacturing Studies Board and the National Research Council, graduates of engineering schools have a difficult time transferring school-based lessons about design to work situations (Improving Engineering Design, 1991). One proposed solution has been the recent swell of case-based approaches to teaching design (see, for example Chou & Calkins, 1994). Cases permit students to apply what they are learning in classrooms to situations that have a higher potential to transfer to real-world problems, including those that are ill-structured and open-ended (Spiro, Coulson, Feltovich, & Anderson, 1988).

    Two active learning modules were assigned over the course of a three-week summer session (see Appendices A and B). Each module had its own set of sub-goals (see below) related to the overall course goals and included the following assignments:

    Instructions for each module were distributed in a lengthy packet that included background readings and information. Lectures covered topics in physics that were relevant to the problems students were encountering. Additional, detailed description of the course can be found in Appendix G.

    Go on to answers to evaluation questions:

  • General Results, Summary, and References
  • How does the course function with respect to nuts-and-bolts issues?
  • How do student attitudes toward invention change as a result of the course?
  • Does student ability to work in groups improve as a result of the course?
  • In what ways and to what extent is the course exportable?
  • Appendices