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Collaborative Design Of Project Based Learning Courses: How To Implement A Mode Of Learning That Effectively Builds Skills For The Global Engineer

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Teaching Methods for the 21st Century: Part 1

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

12.367.1 - 12.367.16



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Paper Authors

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Richard Savage California Polytechnic State University

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Linda Vanasupa California Polytechnic State University

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Jonathan Stolk Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

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

Collaborative design of project-based learning courses: How to implement a mode of learning that effectively builds skills for the global engineer


Success for tomorrow’s engineers necessitates the design of curricula that promote awareness of the broader impacts of engineering, enhances systems thinking, reflects sustainable engineering practices, and helps prepare students to make an impact in the global community. Project-based learning approaches that emphasize student learning rather than instructor teaching may be a key to successful development of “global engineers.” Evaluations of project-based courses show increases in student motivation, problem-solving ability, communication and teaming skills, knowledge retention, and capacity for self-directed learning. Despite these reported benefits, curriculum-wide implementations of project-based learning are rare, probably partly due to the traditional emphasis on technical content acquisition in upper-level courses and a lack of clear methods for ensuring that core competencies are not lost through the project-based mode of learning. To better equip students to be successful global engineers, we recently initiated a large- scale transformation of our undergraduate materials engineering curriculum. The redesign includes a major change in the junior year from traditional subject-based courses to project-based courses facilitated by faculty teams. In the new approach, the learning of fundamental materials engineering content is driven by a series of authentic, hands-on projects. In this paper, we describe a collaborative faculty process for the systematic design of project-based courses for disciplinary core competencies. It involves developing a shared understanding of the vision and goals, identifying user needs and values, articulating and grouping the disciplinary core competencies (knowledge, skills, and attitudes), and designing the project-based experience through an iterative process of embedding core competencies and mapping the experience back to the user needs. We will draw upon our experience in converting the entire junior-year sequence in materials engineering at Cal Poly (12 separate courses) to a project-based learning mode. We briefly discuss the challenges we faced during the transition to the new approach, and provide an overview of the initial student responses to the new learning environment and an assessment of their performance.

Cal Poly Materials Engineering Mission & Vision

The primary mission of the Department of Materials Engineering at Cal Poly is to prepare students to be successful as global engineers. Our vision is to equip engineers to solve technical challenges in the context of a complex global society. Our strategy is to redesign our entire Materials Engineering undergraduate curriculum and promote self-directed learning (SDL), systems-level thinking and sustainable engineering practices. Moreover, we plan to develop a pedagogy that challenges students to balance economic, societal and environmental issues when striving to achieve design solutions based on the fundamental principles of material processing, structure and properties. We refer to this as the Triple Bottom Line Awareness in Design or TriAD.

Savage, R., & Vanasupa, L., & Stolk, J. (2007, June), Collaborative Design Of Project Based Learning Courses: How To Implement A Mode Of Learning That Effectively Builds Skills For The Global Engineer Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2749

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