June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
22.81.1 - 22.81.18
A Participatory Investigation of Learning in International Service ProjectsIntroductionFor some time there have been calls for expanding the methods and content ofengineering education. Some educators suggest a more holistic curriculum, otherspractical experiences, and some advocate a societal focus. We posit that a participatoryinvestigation of what and how students learn through international service projects canyield ideas and synergies that lead to a meaningful enhancement of the engineeringcurriculum. We investigated student learning in international service projects; initialresults show students becoming empowered and impassioned by their experiences. Theseresults have been observed before; however a deeper exploration of these learningprocesses and outcomes is useful for curricular development for all engineeringstudents—whether or not they have access to international experiences.BackgroundVarious recommendations across the educational landscape, including the Engineer of2020, focus on preparing students for the complex and global challenges of the 21stcentury—often meaning that students need to become more self-directed, globallycompetent, and socially aware. Although these outcomes are highly valued, the means toachieving them are not well understood, nor are the means to initiate curriculum changesthat support these outcomes.This study takes an in-depth look at student experiences (specifically what and how theylearn) in several international service projects, adopting a participatory method to collect,interpret, and use the data. The participants joined with the research team and facultymembers to dialogue about learning outcomes from international service experiences.Together, they explored the question: How can the lessons learned from students ininternational engineering projects translate into the development of meaningful learningopportunities in curricular and co-curricular engineering programs?Theoretical Frameworks for Investigating Student LearningThe guiding framework for this study drew upon previous theoretical work onexperiential learning and social cognition. Additional guidance came from previous workon social identity, intercultural competencies, and service-learning. This study pulls thesevarious strands of theory and practice together to develop a richer understanding oflearning in international contexts and how it might enhance the engineering curriculum.The StudyThe participants from this study included students from a chapter of Engineers WithoutBorders. Through interviews, meetings, discussions, and journals, EWB participantsprovided rich narratives about their experiences, including changes in their knowledge,skills and attitudes about themselves as engineers and as people. Meetings with EWBstudents and faculty to review the findings are planned to encourage instructionaldevelopment and curricular enhancements that capitalize on this learning. Thiscollaborative approach empowers students to engage in reflection and action that can leadto greater self-understanding and to significant curricular changes that matter to them.Implications for Engineering EducationThe findings of this study will contribute to an understanding of ways in which studentsdevelop a more holistic and global approach to engineering projects. The work ofstudents, faculty, and the research team will lead to models and approaches forincorporating key features of co-curricular international project work into the mainstreamof instruction and curriculum reform.ReferencesProvided in full paper.
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