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Collaborative Learning About The Meaning Of Professionalism

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



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Page Numbers

6.273.1 - 6.273.11

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John Brown

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Patricia Click

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

Session 3661

Collaborative Learning About the Meaning of Professionalism

Professors John K. Brown, Patricia C. Click Division of Technology, Culture, and Communication School of Engineering and Applied Science University of Virginia


Engineering educators strive to promote a professional orientation among their undergraduates. The task is difficult, given the range of subjects and goals, both on and off campus, that crowd the four-year curriculum. Yet the effort is extremely important, so much so that the ABET Engineering Criteria 2000 give new impetus for engineering schools to develop courses that foster professional development. This paper outlines a collaborative learning experiment at the University of Virginia that leveraged the experiences and expectations of first-year and fourth- year engineering students in existing courses offered by the Division of Technology, Culture, and Communication to create a novel avenue to explore the meaning of professionalism.

What is Collaborative Learning?

Although active learning has been around since at least the time of Plato, the past couple of decades have brought renewed interest in active learning methods, especially cooperative and collaborative learning. In cooperative learning, which is used primarily in elementary and secondary education, student groups work closely with a faculty member to tackle various course-related projects within the classroom. In contrast, collaborative learning, which is more widespread in higher education, entails a faculty member acting as a mentor or facilitator to student groups that do most of their work outside of the classroom (Matthews, Cooper, Davidson, and Hawkes). Collaborative learning promotes discussion, peer teaching, and critical thinking (Russo).

The primary difference between active learning and older models of learning is that the teacher is no longer the sole source of knowledge in the classroom. Much of the recent fascination with collaborative learning has, in fact, grown out of our changing view of what knowledge is--our assumptions about the source and control of knowledge. Social constructionist views made popular by philosopher Richard Rorty and anthropologist Clifford Geertz suggest that the way we think today differs from how we thought in the past. Knowledge is a social construct, directly related to the culture in which it is found. It is the product of the group, rather than an individual effort (Bruffee 1994). Collaborative learning reflects these new ideas about knowledge. Collaborative learning does not assume that the teacher is the sole authority on a

“Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright 2001, American Society for Engineering Education”

Brown, J., & Click, P. (2001, June), Collaborative Learning About The Meaning Of Professionalism Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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