Change learning culture with collaboration

Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
SEFI Annual Conference 2011, 2011, pp. 93 - 98
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Copyright © 2015 SEFI. Engineers are often required to make critical judgments involving decisions that extend beyond traditional discipline boundaries, requiring professional engineers to undertake ongoing learning. Much of this learning is informal, learnt on the job from peers from different disciplines. To develop the skills required for professional practice students need opportunities to work in a collaborative learning environment. Many students resist having to take responsibility for their own learning rather expecting this to be the responsibility of their teaching academics. This resistance is often associated with Asian cultures where there is a perception of reliance on rote learning and an expectation of being passively taught. Furthermore, undertaking collaborative activities may be more difficult when students are not being taught in their primary language. While teaching an undergraduate engineering science program in Hong Kong the authors had initially found it difficult to motivate students to participate in learning activities that involved them using their judgement or critical analysis. In response, learning activities were redesigned to integrate collaborative peer learning and promote a culture of learning rather than a focus on passing a series of assessments. We found that students whose previous learning experiences were mainly passive despite some initial apprehension not only adjusted, but enthusiastically engaged in collaborative learning when given the opportunity. Furthermore, the formative nature of the activities freed students from the burden of strategically collecting marks, allowing them to focus on learning, take responsibility for their own progress and encouraged active participation in the learning process.
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