Collaborative Peer Learning to Change Learning Culture and Develop the Skills for Lifelong Professional Practice

University of Technology, Sydney
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Proceedings of the 21st Annual Conference for the Australasian Association for Engineering Education, 2010, pp. 222 - 229
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Engineers today are often required to make critical judgements involving decisions that extend beyond traditional discipline boundaries requiring ongoing learning, much of which is informal, learnt on the job from peers who are often from different disciplines. To prepare students for professional practice, they need opportunities to experience, practise, reflect and improve their ability to work in a collaborative environment. The University of Technology, Sydney teaches an undergraduate engineering science programme in Hong Kong. The authors have found it initially difficult to get students to participate in collaborative learning activities and in particular those that involved students in using their own judgement or critical analysis. In response, the authors redesigned their course to integrate collaborative peer learning activities into all areas of the curriculum including collaborative problem solving exercises that are subsequently assessed through a series of first individual then collaborative quizzes (using the immediate feedback assessment techniques (IF-AT)) and exams. Initial results from students overwhelmingly showed that the collaborative activities improved their understanding, ability to think through and resolve problems, and the identification and addressing of gaps in their learning. This approach has potential to benefit all engineering students as it prepares students to make the most of the informal collaborative learning opportunities provided in professional practice while simultaneously enhancing their ability to undertake lifelong learning.
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