Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Collaborative teams of engineers and learning scientists have developed challenge-based instruction modules for a number of Biomedical Engineering (BME) courses, ranging from optics to microbiology, biotransport, and biomechanics. A hallmark of these modules is a fundamental shift away from students’ memorization of factual knowledge, instead emphasizing the skills necessary to apply the new content innovatively. One key piece of anecdotal evidence employed to block the development and implementation of additional challenge-based courses is students’ resistance to the new and/or unfamiliar pedagogy. We addressed this common narrative by assessing students’ opinions toward both completing open-ended challenge problems and the components of a self-determined ideal biomedical engineering course at regular intervals during a challenge-based biotransport course.
Two biotransport courses were studied (29 and 21 students), where the first author conducted and analyzed all observation and survey data and the second author was the course instructor. While both courses utilized the same textbook and challenge problem sequence, one was offered as an accelerated study-abroad experience, and one was offered on-campus during a standard semester. Before, during, and after the challenge-based instruction course, students identified that the open-ended challenges characteristic of the instruction model were motivating, engaging, and interesting. Students also consistently preferred homework and examination problems that were derived from the real world, required creativity, and were solved collaboratively within teams. Over the length of the semester, students’ found the challenge-based instruction model to be less stressful than their previous classes, became comfortable and assured in their individual abilities to solve challenge prompts, and became more comfortable with the existence of multiple correct answers to an engineering problem. Students were significantly more confident in their ability to complete challenge prompts derived from biotransport, biomechanics, or content of a course taken previously following completion of challenge-based biotranpsort. Observation of student engagement, as a function of student and professor activity, revealed that aspects of the challenge-based instruction model (i.e. challenge solving, group work) significantly enhanced student engagement in the class. In a manner consistent with published literature on challenge-based instruction in engineering, students demonstrated concurrent development of content expertise and innovative problem solving ability during the course.
We believe the present study provides substantial quantitative and qualitative evidence to support the efficacy of challenge-based instruction for conveying technical content and establishing relevant real-world application skill in biomedical engineering courses. Our results affirm that students prefer many aspects of challenge-based instruction to lecture pedagogy. Furthermore, students’ opinions of challenge-based instruction and problem solving broadly increased in favorability over the duration of the semester. Beyond suiting student preferences, challenge-based instruction strategies also enhanced student engagement during in-class activity. From a perspective of education policy, we believe these results support the increased incorporation of challenge-based modules in new and evolving biomedical engineering classes.
Clegg, J. R., & Diller, K. R. (2018, June), Evolution of Biomedical Engineering Students’ Perceptions of Problem Solving and Instruction Strategies During a Challenge-Based Instruction Course Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30458
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