June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.157.1 - 11.157.18
Active Teaching, Active Learning: Infusing the Design Process in a First-Year Course
Abstract The overall goals of most first-year engineering design courses are to introduce students to the engineering design process through hands-on learning activities, to familiarize them with the various disciplines in engineering, and to inspire and instill an appreciation for the engineering profession, its ethics, and practices –all with the hopes of improved retention. At Northeastern University, our team of instructors has developed a set of classroom activities that illustrate each step of the engineering design process though exercises which dynamically engage the students in each of the progressive course topics. Not surprisingly, students have been very responsive to this approach and emerge from the course with a reportedly higher capability to remember and apply the concepts having been actively involved in simultaneously learning and practicing them. A variety of course assessment measures –both formal and informal– support the notion that students involved in active learning practices regard the instructor as significantly more effective, report to have learned significantly more, and rate the overall course significantly higher relative to students in cohort sections that have not experienced the same level of directed hands-on learning.
Introduction One of the more challenging aspects of teaching engineering design is to build a course out of activities that are woven around a well-established process in order to allow students to experience design rather than just listen to how it is supposed to work. It is well known through research and practice that incorporating learning activities into a course better facilitates the student learning process as compared with more passive approaches2,6,13,14,15. First-year engineering design courses typically include standard design-and-build projects, design competitions, laboratory projects, and other projects that span many weeks. These projects are active and hands-on, but are often relatively self-contained and separate from the exercises of presenting a design process and becoming familiar with other aspects of successful design. Thus the objective of this paper is not merely to extol the virtues of active learning as that has been well established; rather this work will illustrate the effects of a deliberate introduction of a variety of hands-on experiences that directly map to the steps of the engineering design process. The objective is to instill into the engineering students a natural and applicable progression through relevant and memorable activities. As such the apprentice engineers are no longer compelled to memorize the phases of structured design since they have been directly involved in developing them in a first-hand way.
In terms of academics, a step-by-step method for engineering design is easily proffered to the students, but teaching a process is challenging and requires particular focus on ensuring that links are made among the steps. An introductory study of the engineering design process as a
Freeman, S., & Jaeger, B., & Whalen, R. (2006, June), Active Teaching, Active Learning: Infusing The Design Process In A First Year Course Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/586
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