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Bringing First Year Engineering Students To Reflect On Their Learning Strategies Via A Learning Journal And An End Of Semester Essay In The Context Of A Problem Based And Project Based Learning Curriculum

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Understanding Students: Cognition

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.269.1 - 7.269.16

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Paper Authors

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Richard Thibault

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Noel Boutin

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Session 1330

Bringing First-year Engineering Students to Reflect on their Learning Strategies

Noël Boutin, Richard Thibault, André Clavet, Brahim Hadjou, Jean-Marie Dirand, François Michaud, Daniel Dalle, Gérard Lachiver, Département de génie électrique et de génie informatique Faculté de génie Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada J1K 2R1

Abstract This paper reports on a qualitative appraisal of the ability of first-year engineering students to engage in a metacognitive process about their learning strategies. At the beginning of the semester, texts on learning strategies, reading, concept mapping, emotional competencies, change and stress were distributed to each student and discussed in the classroom. We emphasized the importance for students not only to monitor their performance during the semester but also to look back on their learning strategies and, if necessary, to improve them. To that end, we asked students to periodically write in a personal learning journal their thoughts about their learning strategies. As an incentive, we told them that, as one of their final exams, they would have to write a 7 to 10-page essay about their learning strategies. They were also informed that they would be graded according to their ability to analyse their strategies, whether these strategies were optimal or not. Results of a preliminary analysis of these essays confirm that it is possible to bring first-year engineeering students to reflect on their learning strategies.

1- Introduction The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering of the Université de Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada, has totally redesigned its Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering Co-operative programs. The first semester of these new programs was offered for the first time in September 2001 to 167 freshmen engineering students.These new curricula are founded on a competency-based framework, following an original learning approach that combines Problem-based and Project-based Learning called APPI (French acronym for « Apprentissage par Problèmes et par Projets en Ingénierie ») 1 . There are no more lectures. Instead, on a repetitive two-week schedule, a small group of nominally 12 students meets twice with a tutor. During the first meeting, students try to solve a given problem with the knowledge they have already acquired and identify what new knowledge is required to fully solve it. Then, they go on to studying and applying their new knowledge. To help them organize their knowledge, we ask them to draw concept maps and procedural maps. During the second meeting, the problem is summarised and solved, using the new knowledge acquired during the first week. As support, students can use only maps they have elaborated during their studies. They have the permission to modify their maps, if necessary, during the meeting, according to what they hear from other students and to what is validated by the tutor. At the end of that second meeting, a fifteen-minute period is set aside to give students an opportunity to exchange on their learning strategies. Students are invited to record their thoughts in their learning journal once at home.

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Thibault, R., & Boutin, N. (2002, June), Bringing First Year Engineering Students To Reflect On Their Learning Strategies Via A Learning Journal And An End Of Semester Essay In The Context Of A Problem Based And Project Based Learning Curriculum Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

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