June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Educational Research and Methods
13.196.1 - 13.196.14
An Investigation of the Relationship between Graduate Teaching Assistant Perceptions and Success of Active Learning Techniques in an Engineering Education Course
Active learning is extremely prevalent in discussions of how to improve teaching and learning in both undergraduate and graduate engineering courses. However, active learning may not always lead to success. Rather, characteristics of the students enrolled and of the course material may influence whether or not active learning is met with resistance. This project examines the relationship between graduate students’ perception of active learning techniques and the success of these techniques in an engineering education course entitled, “Teaching Seminar for Graduate Assistants.” The context of the project surrounds three sections of a course which were taught in the same semester by the same instructor on different days of the week. Although the same activities were used in each section, resistance was more evident in one section as compared to the other two. Students across all sections were surveyed to examine their perceptions regarding course effectiveness, relevance of the course, helpfulness of class activities, and views on active learning. Students who found the course to be relevant to themselves and their future careers were more likely to provide a positive perspective on active learning techniques. In addition to a detailed analysis of the scale data, the limitations of the study regarding the specialized population enrolled in the course are discussed.
Walk into any faculty development seminar in the College of Engineering on any campus and you are likely to hear a similar mantra. If an instructor wants to improve his or her teaching and subsequently increase student learning, he or she should use active learning techniques. Active learning is arguably the most prescribed solution to easing educational problems and enhancing student learning for faculty within any discipline. In fact, research has generally supported that active learning strategies are likely to result in higher student engagement and greater learning gains than traditional instructor-centered methods.1 However, what is missing from the literature is a balanced perspective regarding the use of active learning including empirical research on why active learning techniques might fail and on specific techniques to use when active learning is seemingly ineffective.
The purpose of this paper is to begin to explore this side of active learning, focusing on what variables might be related to or influence students’ perceptions of active learning techniques. In order to explore this perspective, an examination of three sections of an engineering education course is described. These three sections had seemingly differential impact, although the instructor and time of day remained consistent.
Research on how students learn has reiterated that students need to be actively engaged with course material. For example, the National Research Council states that, “Overall, the new
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