Engineering Learning

At Colorado School of Mines, we promote a framework of course design and implementation that we refer to as “Engineering Learning.” We engineer learning to ensure the richest possible learning opportunities for all Mines students. The Engineering Learning framework is based on decades of educational research and consists of four distinct phases that guide instructors through the process of designing, teaching, and revising their courses. While the four phases appear to follow a simple cycle in this diagram, the process of Engineering Learning is non-linear, being both complex and iterative. Collaborating with colleagues throughout the process helps to extend and advance thinking.

Four Phases of Engineering Learning


The Design phase of the Engineering Learning framework ensures that a course is built on a solid foundation. During this phase, instructors articulate the initial vision for the course and create three foundational deliverables for the course: measurable and specific course learning outcomes, summative assessments that are directly aligned with the learning outcomes, and a motivating course description that outlines the purpose, value, and relevance of the course. Together, these deliverables form a course guide, which serves as a reference as instructors work through the iterative process of Engineering Learning.


The Build phase involves using the course guide to create the specific components of the course, such as lesson plans, activities, policies, and assessments, that will help students successfully master the course learning outcomes. This intentional design process ensures that the course is rigorous, efficient, supportive of students, and focused on learning. It also ensures that students learn what the course is intended to offer. This phase results in a detailed course plan—or, in online contexts, a polished course build.


The Enact phase involves teaching the course using instructional strategies that support student learning and foster an inclusive learning environment. While teaching the course, the instructor interacts with students and monitors feedback about how the course is going. Feedback can include student engagement in class, performance on assignments, suggestions from early course feedback surveys or focus groups, and results of end-of-course evaluations. Monitoring this feedback helps the instructor make adjustments while teaching the course and also gather evidence about how the course experience went for both students and the instructor.


The Reflect phase involves taking the time to consider how the course went: what worked, what was challenging, and what the instructor might do differently the next time they teach the course. Instructors should review the feedback they collected during the Enact phase during this process. It can also be helpful to discuss these reflections with other instructors, the Trefny Center, or Mines Online colleagues. Ultimately, this phase is used to further refine the course.