All Ireland Society for Higher Education (AISHE), AISHE-C 2008: Encouraging Student Engagement

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Student perceptions of a pilot scale, problem based learning module in engineering.
David Hamilton, Tom O'Mahony

Last modified: 2009-02-24


Over the past three years the authors have focused on introducing student centered learning into a third year engineering module by integrating lectures and practical work in a studio format and introduced a significant amount of active learning through simulation and computer-aided design. Reflection on these changes indicate that while they have a positive effect on student motivation and learning, students ability to solve open-ended problems, learn independently and work effectively in teams is poor. To address these problems the authors devised a short pilot-scale blended problem and project based learning (P2BL) course component. Since our students have little no experience of the problem-based learning methodology, the initial weeks are heavily scaffolded in an attempt to minimize frustration and maximize learning. In this paper the author's briefly describe the problem based learning component and focus on student perceptions of this innovation. Student perceptions were determined through a Rikert-scale questionnaire and examined via face-to-face interviews. These perceptions are combined with the instructor's observations and reflections on the P2BL based learning course component. Of particular note is the fact that overall the students responded positively to the P2BL format and students were unanimous in recommending that P2BL be adopted in other modules within the department. From the instructor's perspective, it was noted that students experienced considerable difficulty translating basic knowledge obtained earlier in the module to the open-ended problem used in the P2BL component. Clearly, the course as it exists, does not effectively teach students some of the fundamental concepts of this discipline and this is a cause for concern. Future work will examine whether additional open-ended problems can address this concern.


Problem based learning