June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
22.16.1 - 22.16.23
A Case Study of How Project-Based Learning Helps Increase Relevance and Motivation for LearnersFluid Dynamics can be a particularly challenging and intimidating subject for many students inall engineering disciplines. However, by helping learners actively discover the relevance andapplication of the course principles to their own lives, their motivation and enthusiasm forlearning increases. At Brigham Young University (BYU), we designed a competitive project-based learning curriculum for the 26 students in the Civil Engineering Hydraulics and Fluid FlowTheory Course for the winter semester 2010. During the course of the semester, studentscompeted in small groups to develop an engaging story board that would teach an especiallychallenging engineering topic to those outside their discipline. The top three winning projectseach won prize money. Additionally, the top project won the opportunity to have their projectidea professionally developed. Though students felt a bit of apprehension early on in thesemester about this project-based approach, by the end of the semester, the students wereunanimous in their affirmation that this learning approach helped them to develop new skills(such as being better communicators and teachers of engineering principles), perform better inteams, develop deeper interest in civil engineering, and to see the application of civil engineeringprinciples to many areas of their everyday lives.Using two different surveys, we solicited feedback from the students in two main categories (1)suggested pedagogical improvements and (2) impact that the project-based learning approachhad on student learning. This presentation will share the results of the survey data. Based onsurvey data, students felt that the competitive project-based approach to learning was helpful tothem because they were required to think in new and innovative ways and learn to enhance theircommunication skills, though they thought the timing and the sequence of some aspects of theproject-based portion of the course could be revised to better fit the course flow and structure.As for the impact that the project-based approach had on student learning, we saw that whenstudents were asked to find creative ways to teach the engineering principles to others they foundgreater relevance in the course material to their own lives and greater motivation to master thematerial. Learner interest (or motivation) in the material and seeing relevance of the material totheir own lives are two of the primary predictors of life-long learning.
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