NSF Awards Pitt Engineers $200,000 to Study the Impact of Reflection on Learning

Assistant professors Samuel Dickerson and Renee Clark have received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to help students in the Swanson School of Engineering start to think about thinking. The two-year, $200,000 award will support a project to improve learning and development by promoting the frequent use of reflection and “metacognition” among students in a Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering class on microelectronic circuits.

“Engineering is different from other disciplines because this type of thought process isn’t inherent in our training,” Dickerson said. “Reflection and metacognition are not skills that are regularly cultivated or practiced in the engineering curriculum — in the classroom we are more focused on immediate problem-solving rather than pausing and looking at the big picture, which is more common in the engineering workplace.”

According to Clark, it is easier for a student in a classroom environment to ask a professor or teaching assistant to help them solve a problem. Outside of college however, there may be fewer resources on which to rely. Dickerson and Clark want to encourage engineering students to develop lifelong learning skills that will help them independently learn how to find a solution and ultimately give them an advantage when they join the workforce. Read more about the project.