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Collaborative Inquiry into Foundation Knowledge in Computer Engineering: A Case Study in Hong Kong

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Integration of Research and Education in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.320.1 - 25.320.9



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Paper Authors


Yuen-Yan Chan Chinese University of Hong Kong

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Yuen-Yan Chan is with the Department of Information Engineering at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. She possesses a dual background in educational psychology and engineering. She is responsible for teaching a first-year refreshment course and is keen at implementing and evaluating novel pedagogies in her teaching. Chan is the principle investigator and key member of several inter-regional student learning projects. She founded the IEEE Education Society Hong Kong Chapter and is the current Chair. She is also the first NAE CASEE New Faculty Fellow in China and Hong Kong.

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Wai Yin Ng Chinese University of Hong Kong

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Wai-Yin Ng received his B.A. in 1985 (specializing in control and operational research) and Ph.D. in 1989 (specializing in computer-aided control system design), both from the University of Cambridge, U.K. Being a professed interdisciplinary researcher, he focuses not on a single area or topic but rather on a general concern of human intelligence and its enhancement. He has been interested in understanding the human visual system from a computational perspective, with a view to teaching the computer how to code, process, and display visual information with good intelligence. This interest has since broadened to a fascination with natural intelligence and mining of fundamental principles therein that are useful in engineering.

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Collaborative Inquiry into Foundation Knowledge in Computer Engineering:A Case Study in Hong KongBackground and MotivationRapid changes in global technology domain urge a rethink about how to educate computerprofessionals of next generations. Inquiry-based learning (IBL) is a kind of constructivistpedagogy in education in which learners formulate hypotheses and problem-solving strategies bytheir own, and learn through inquiries into ill-structured problem situations. It is especiallysuitable for computer engineering education in 21st century because of the complexity of theknowledge domain, which often involves multiple disciplines. Inquiry is a natural process inhuman development. Through the process of inquiry, individuals construct their perspectives ofthe natural and human-designed worlds. Collaborative learning is a social learning model, in acollaborative learning environment, learners who are at different levels of performance worktogether in groups, and achieve toward a collective learning goal.ObjectivesThis paper describes a case of design and implementation of inquiry-based learning (IBL) andcollaborative learning lessons in a refreshment course offered by an engineering department at auniversity in Hong Kong in September to December 2010. Participants included 132 studentsdivided into 24 collaborative learning groups. The current work implemented inquiry-basedlearning (IBL) and collaborative learning in the teaching and learning of fundamental knowledgein computer engineering. The course included three main components: (1) foundationalknowledge about information engineering, (2) hands-on laboratories related to the foundationalknowledge learnt in (1), and (3) practices of professional engineers. In particular, IBL activitieshave been designed and conducted to deliver (2). Four topics were introduced throughcollaborative inquiries: (1) Flow control in computer networks, (2) signal processing, (3)information and network security; and (4) applications of technologies in the society. The IBLclasses were designed according to a three-step model, which covers: (1) initiating inquiry, (2)coaching during an inquiry, and (3) assessing inquiry-based learning. In particular, (2) and (3)are recurring processes. In this paper, related educational theories are reviewed and the lesson implementationprocess is described. Qualitative feedbacks collected from participating students are also given.AssessmentAt the end of the course, students were asked to write an individual reflective essay thatdescribes about their collaborative inquiry learning process. A student described about the IBLactivities that she has gone through, and expressed her positive view about this teaching andlearning approach. Another student wrote about the learning process, and commented that IBLhelped him constructed knowledge as the subject contents were not taught directly but was to beconstructed by the students on their own. From another student’s reflection, the practice ofdemocratic knowledge among group members (that everyone contributes equally) can be found.Student also expressed gains from social interactions in group collaborations, including helpingeach others and practicing Putonghua (as there was a mixture of students from Mainland Chinaand Hong Kong in each group). More details and analysis of student feedback and reflection willbe provided in the main paper.

Chan, Y., & Ng, W. Y. (2012, June), Collaborative Inquiry into Foundation Knowledge in Computer Engineering: A Case Study in Hong Kong Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21078

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