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Active Learning Approaches In Engineering Design Courses

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Teaching Design

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.158.1 - 8.158.25



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Paper Authors

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Kristin Wood

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Daniel Jensen

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Alan Dutson

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Matthew Green

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session ____

Active Learning Approaches in Engineering Design Courses

Alan Dutson Brigham Young University – Idaho

Matthew Green and Kristin Wood The University of Texas at Austin

Dan Jensen United States Air Force Academy

Abstract The pendulum of engineering education is swinging from an emphasis purely on theory to a balance between concrete experiences and analysis. This balance calls for engaging students in active learning through new materials such as hands-on activities, interactive multimedia, and group learning. This balance with concrete experience is especially needed in “building-block” courses that create the foundation for advanced design courses. If we expect students to perform well with open-ended, project-centered problems, we need to provide a pedagogical basis across the entire undergraduate curriculum. This paper presents such a basis for one important engineering core topic: mechanics of materials. Active learning concepts applied in mechanics of materials courses are discussed, including specific examples of hands-on, multimedia, and group design exercises.

1. Introduction One of the needed reformations in engineering education involves a change in instructional methods from passive, lecture-type techniques to more active methods. Pedagogical techniques that involve active participation from students address a wider array of learning styles than traditional lecture-based approaches. Several studies have shown that, not only do students prefer the active approach to learning, but that active learning techniques can enhance the cognitive skills of students more readily than traditional lectures1.

The term “active learning” implies an active participation by students in the learning process, as opposed to passively “receiving” information from an instructor during a lecture. Although the concept behind “active learning” is apparent, a precise definition is difficult to find in the literature since many authors differ on the types of activities they consider to be “active.” Some would argue that all learning is “active” by nature (including active “thinking” and note taking in a lecture setting1,2). Most authors, however, consider listening to a lecture or taking notes as “passive” activities3. In this paper we adopt Bonwell’s definition and use the term “active learning” to refer to instructional activities that require students to “engage in such higher-order thinking tasks as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation,” and that involve students “in doing things and thinking about what they are doing” 1 (italics added).

A wide array of instructional techniques for implementing active learning is described in the literature. In this paper we focus on three major categories of active learning: (i) hands-on

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Wood, K., & Jensen, D., & Dutson, A., & Green, M. (2003, June), Active Learning Approaches In Engineering Design Courses Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11908

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