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Engineering Students' Perception on Learning through Cooperative Problem-based Learning (CPBL) for the First Time

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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

Problem-based and Challenge-based Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.557.1 - 25.557.17



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Paper Authors


Fatin Aliah Phang Universiti Teknologi Malaysia

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Cooperative problem-based learning (CPBL) has been proven to be a powerful technique in engaging and developing students in learning, as well as a multitude of professional skills. Nevertheless, academic staff in engineering who are new to conducting CPBL may face difficulties because students who are new to this inquiry based technique will normally be "traumatized" because of the drastic change in the learning environment and requirements. As part of a larger study on training and supporting academic staff in implementing CPBL, a phenomenological study was conducted on the categories of variations in students' perceptions towards learning as they go through a course that fully utilized CPBL in a whole semester. The main purpose is to identify students’ perception towards CPBL in two aspects: the student perceptions and acceptance/rejection, and the benefits and improvements that students gained along the learning process. The paper illustrates the extent of acceptance and effectiveness of CPBL method for an engineering class taught by a lecturer who had undergone a series of training on cooperative learning and problem based learning, but is new to implementing CPBL. Through classroom observations, students’ self-reflection notes and interviews with students for one whole semester, the results are reported in three stages: beginning of the semester, in the middle the semester; and at the end of the semester. Four types of initial-to-final students’ perspectives were found. The analysis of the interviews reveal that, first and foremost, it is essential for academic staff to understand and embrace the philosophy behind CPBL, which will enable them to providing students with appropriate support especially in developing team working, time management, learning and thinking skills. In addition, proper explanation and justification behind each step in the CPBL cycle, as well as the overall planning through the different problems, are also necessary to avoid confusion and cutting corners in learning among students. Most of all, the analysis reveal the importance of emotional support in the form of motivation and encouragement, as students go through various emotions that form into perception, which in turn affect their performance.

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Khairiyah Mohd-Yusof Universiti Teknologi Malaysia

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Khairiyah Mohd-Yusof is currently the Director of the Regional Centre for Engineering Education (RCEE), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. Previously, she had held posts as a Deputy Director at the Centre for Teaching and Learning and Head of the Chemical Engineering Department. As the Director of RCEE, she oversees the Ph.D. in engineering education program in UTM. Her main research areas are process modeling, simulation and control, and engineering education. She has been implementing PBL in her courses since 2002 and is also involved in training engineering instructors in teaching and learning throughout Malaysia.

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Syed Helmi Syed Hassan Universiti Teknologi Malaysia

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Syed Helmi Syed Hassan is as Senior Lecturer in the faculty of mechanical engineering, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, and is affiliated to the Regional Centre for Engineering Education, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. He is among the first cohort of graduates of the Ph.D. in engineering education program from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.

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Mimi H. Hassim Universiti Teknologi Malaysia

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Mimi Haryani Hassim is a Senior Lecturer with the Department of Chemical Engineering, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. She obtained her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Aalto University School of Science and Technology, Finland, in 2010. She is also a Chartered Member of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE). She has been working in the area of inherent occupational health studies for more than 10 years. Her research studies also include inherent safety, multi-criteria decision making, and industrial hygiene.

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Engineering Student’s Perceptions on Cooperative Problem- Based Learning (CPBL) in Inculcating Generic Skills for Better EmployabilityAbstractCooperative Problem-Based Learning (CPBL) is an emerging teaching method in engineeringeducation for a class size of 30 to 60 students. CPBL aims to achieve deep learning amongengineering students and at the same time inculcating generic skills essential for their futurecareer such as teamworking, critical thinking, communication skills, lifelong learning, problemsolving skills and so on. Previous studies using quantitative methods have shown that CPBL canimprove problem solving skills and teamworking skills. It is crucial to understand how CPBLinculcate some of these skills. In order to understand how these skills developed, an ethnographicstudy applying classroom observations and interviews with a class of third year chemicalengineering students for one full semester was carried out to investigate their perceptions on theacquisition of these generic skills through CPBL. Field notes taken during the classroomobservations and interview transcripts were analyzed qualitatively. It was found that the studentsshowed resistance and negative perceptions towards CPBL at the early stage or at the beginningof the semester. However, as more case studies or problems were given using CPBL, the studentsstarted to change their perceptions and most of them came to the realization that CPBL hassharpen their skills in teamworking, critical thinking, lifelong learning and communication skills.This evolution of perception from resistance to acceptance towards CPBL and realization of theimportance of CPBL towards their future careers is a very encouraging finding for engineeringlecturers to conduct CPBL in their classes.

Phang, F. A., & Mohd-Yusof, K., & Syed Hassan, S. H., & Hassim, M. H. (2012, June), Engineering Students' Perception on Learning through Cooperative Problem-based Learning (CPBL) for the First Time Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21314

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