Developing three-dimensional engineers through project-based learning

Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Proceedings of the 28th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE 2017), 2017, pp. 303 - 311
Issue Date:
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Context: The issue addressed is the need to develop engineering students' independent learning and their understanding of the range of professional engineering activities within the context of a large introductory engineering subject in a revised academic calendar with reduced teaching weeks. Thus a project was created to re-design the subject to take a structured approach to flipped and blended content delivery. This has provided a scaffolded and supportive environment to introduce students to collaborative project-based and independent learning. Purpose: The project aims to create a coherent teaching and learning narrative to develop student engineering identities within an authentic student project which gives them insights into the nature of engineering work. This is done in a subject with strong tutor support to scaffold students" learning experiences. Approach: The project uses transition pedagogies to scaffold blended and flipped learning experiences, and to make explicit the need to develop students' engineering identities. Active and interactive learning opportunities enhance students' agency to become independent learners. Data have been collected from students and tutors to measure the impact of the changes in learning and teaching practices. Student data are being analysed through the lens of developing professional identity. The effectiveness of the student learning activities are being evaluated using tutor feedback and assessment results. Results: Results indicate that due to the subject redesign, students have a stronger sense of the nature of engineering work. Furthermore, teaching and learning activities that focus on project-based learning have developed students' emergent professional identity and professional capabilities. In addition, the standardisation of teaching and learning experiences across tutorial classes have led to greater consistency in content delivery and learning outcomes. Conclusions: It is critical to introduce students to project-based learning using a structured and scaffolded approach. This foregrounds the collaborative and three-dimensional nature of engineering work and highlights the complexities of developing professional capabilities and identities. Students develop these understandings at different rates; as is evidenced in both the student and the tutor comments thus flipped learning activities can provide opportunities for students to maximise classroom and peer-to-peer learning. Even with the structured activities, not all students embrace the need to develop professional skills as part of learning to become an engineer.
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