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Changing From A Lecture Based Format To A Team Learning/Project Driven Format: Lessons Learned

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.99.1 - 2.99.7



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Paper Authors

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Randall L. Kolar

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David A. Sabatini

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

Session 1675

Changing From a Lecture-Based Format to a Team Learning/Project-Driven Format: Lessons Learned

Randall L. Kolar, David A. Sabatini School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019-0631


In a number of courses in the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science (CEES) at the University of Oklahoma (OU), we are making a transition from the traditional lecture-based paradigm to a new paradigm that includes active, team-based learning, team teaching, and a project-driven syllabus. Based on our experience, we have identified five key measures to ease the transition and enhance the educational experience: 1) use "real-world" projects to motivate the learning process and introduce them at the beginning of the semester; 2) follow established keys to using groups successfully; 3) ensure sufficient "coverage" by having students learn basic material outside the classroom, which also fosters life-long learning; 4) team teach courses; and 5) use laboratory sessions for group-learning activities. While the concepts have been tested on upper-level courses (junior, senior, graduate), we feel they are appropriate for lower-division courses as well.


Local and national surveys consistently point to several weaknesses in engineering education, including our graduates inability to communicate effectively, to interact with co-workers and management, and to think critically4,5,7,8,13,15. Among other problems, these weaknesses inhibit our graduates' ability to play an active role in team-oriented projects (which are becoming the norm in many consulting and industry organizations11) and their ability to present these results to management and the public. However, for reasons ranging from entrenched teaching strategies to lack of time, engineering education has been slow to respond to these needs. It has been our experience that the profession is dominated by the same learning paradigm that has educated engineers for the last several decades, namely, passive classroom lectures, individual homework assignments, and problem-solving exams. Group activities, if they are included at all, tend to be simplistic and ill-supervised. We in CEES are beginning to address these weaknesses via classroom reform. The paradigm centers on project-driven assignments, where students are organized into permanent teams and given a complex design question at the beginning of the semester before any substantive background material is delivered. In the remainder of the semester (or portion thereof, if several tasks are to be assigned), class activities, be they short lectures or class discussions or group exercises, are driven by student questions on how to complete the project. In essence, the syllabus for the course is an evolving document driven by student curiosity, thereby helping to prepare the students for life-long learning. Changing from the "traditional" paradigm to the new requires faculty commitment and administrative support. Still, even with proper support, the transition is not without pitfalls. This manuscript outlines some of the measures we have taken to smooth the transition.

Kolar, R. L., & Sabatini, D. A. (1997, June), Changing From A Lecture Based Format To A Team Learning/Project Driven Format: Lessons Learned Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6449

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