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Collaborative Learning In Small Groups In A Mathematics Intensive Ne Course

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.126.1 - 4.126.7

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Paper Authors

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Douglas Peplow

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Kuruvilla Verghese

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

Session 2477

Collaborative Learning in Small Groups in a Mathematics Intensive NE Course Kuruvilla Verghese, Douglas E. Peplow Department of Nuclear Engineering North Carolina State University Raleigh, NC 27695-7909

Abstract Several of the generally required nuclear engineering undergraduate courses are intensive in mathematics and physics, for example, courses in reactor analysis and thermal hydraulics. The conventional lecture lab format is usually unsatisfactory for such courses. Translating the physics into mathematics and vice versa are often lost on the students while they strug- gle with the mathematics. The result is a lot of rote learning without much understanding and critical analysis. This problem is exacerbated when the course is a prerequisite for upper level courses and coverage of the syllabus is deemed important. Over the last four years we have been trying the approach of collaborative learning in small groups in a junior level course in reactor analysis to overcome some of the de ciencies. We have found that formal classroom lectures are important in such a course but student understanding can be improved through mandatory collaborative learning sessions in small groups outside the lecture classes. Groups of two to three students meet in separate rooms once each week for two hours teaching each other to answer questions that are posted in their course locker. The questions are concept-based covering the lecture material for the prior week. Graduate student volunteers and the the instructor serve as guides but not tutors. The primary goals are to provide an enquiry-guided learning environment, to discourage rote learning and to make the subject more enjoyable. 1. Introduction College teaching methods have gone through a revolution in recent years with the concept of active learning shown to be the way for students to learn. There is a vast amount of edu- cation literature that has established that active participation in the class room as opposed to passive listening keeps students better motivated in the subject, helps them retain and use the course material and develops critical thinking and communication skills. There are numerous modes that have been established as e ective ways for the instructor to promote active learning1,4. A typical example is where the instructor would set up small groups within the class room and pose short-answer questions or problems that deal with a concept that had been taught and the student teams would take a few minutes, typically two to three minutes to confer among their team to come up with an answer. All of the answers

Peplow, D., & Verghese, K. (1999, June), Collaborative Learning In Small Groups In A Mathematics Intensive Ne Course Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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