June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
24.269.1 - 24.269.15
Challenging Students' Values and Assumptions Through Project-Based Learning Learning through the exploration of problematic situations is not a new educationalapproach. If we trace the origins of problem-based learning back to early educational forms wewill see that Socrates presented students with problems that, through questioning, enabledstudents to explore the values and assumptions that they apply to problem solving. Literatureshows that this kind of increased understanding and examination of perspectives and frameworksis encouraged through problem-based learning because it offers students opportunities toexamine their beliefs about knowledge in ways that lecture-based learning and narrow forms ofproblem-solving learning do not. John Dewey, the father of educational phylosophy more thancentury ago argued that instruction should be based on students interest where students areinvolved in real life activities and chalenge. The pedagogical importance of inductive learningmethods, such as project-based learning, create environments where students are driven by theirpassion, curiosity, engagement, and dreams. This research examines the outcomes of foundational engineering courses (specificallyThermodynamics) and investigates the processes that promote or undermine students’ learningwithin stimulating academic environments that incorporate project-based learning in a globalcontext. In the study, sophemore engineering students were given opportunities to choose aproject (to focus on one of three small countries and write a proposal for a thermal energy systemto meet the electrical generation needs of that country for the next ten years. The project neededto include an explaination of the need for additional electrical power generation capacity in thecountry that each student has chosen, the resources (or lack thereof) that are available formeeting those needs, and the economic situation in the selected country. In the proposal studentsneeded to explain the proposed technology to meet the needs in the chosen country and providejustification of their choice of technology. Specifications for the system including the powergeneration capacity, the maximum theoretical efficiency of the system, working fluid, and aschematic diagram illustrating the components and configuration of the system also needed to beincluded. In addition, students were asked to discuss the environmental, societal, and economicimpacts of the proposed project. The student reports were evaluated using a grading rubric. A questionnaire was used to assess student engagement in the project and to identifyaspects of the project that were engaging and/or challenging. Results of the questionnaire werecompared to students’ scores on the project and correlations were identified.
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