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Exploring an Active-learning Focus in a Liberal Arts Engineering Curriculum

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Programmatic Integration of Liberal Education

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


David Robert Bruce P.E. Fulbright University Vietnam Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Bruce has a passion for technology development with a focus on empowering society through altering perception and perspective. He holds a B.A.Sc. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Waterloo, an M.A.Sc. in Materials Science & Engineering from McMaster University, and a Ph.D. in Chemical and Biological Engineering from the University of British Columbia. This varied engineering education has taught him to view our world through a multifaceted lens.
Dr. Bruce has studied and worked in the alternative energy field for 15 years in a variety of disciplines, with industrial experience in both large tech companies and start-ups. Dr. Bruce is keen to share his understanding into underlying physical science and how to use it to actualize engineering and bring innovation from conception to production. Dr. Bruce is an avid sculptor, painter, and photographer and he hopes to pioneer integration of fine arts with engineering at Fulbright to help examine what serendipitous discoveries can be found through these combined fields.

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Sebastian Dziallas Fulbright University Vietnam

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Sebastian Dziallas is a Founding Faculty Member at Fulbright University Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City. He completed his PhD work in the Computing Education Research Group at the University of Kent. His research examines characteristics of computer science graduates and uses a highly qualitative, narrative methodology to explore the sense graduates make of their own educational experiences within their wider learning trajectories. Before joining the University of Kent, he graduated from Olin College of Engineering in the United States.

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Fulbright University Vietnam is Vietnam’s first not-for-profit, independent university with a focus on liberal arts, sciences and engineering undergraduate programs. The curriculum is built on integration of these programs and incorporates active learning and experiential learning activities in courseware design. Experiential learning activities include student led research, examination of user centered design, and observational analysis of the environment. Active learning activities include think-pair-sharing, flipped classrooms, and sticky-note clustering. Complimentary to the active learning and experiential learning emphasis, the integration of engineering with liberal arts affords incorporation of concepts encompassing student-centric learning and allows community rather than content-based exploration of concepts. The interdisciplinary core of the first-year program introduces students to topics spanning the arts, humanities, engineering, and the social, natural, and computational sciences. The initial engineering focused course, Creating & Making, is focused on practicing skills in ideation, project scoping, project management, reporting, communicating, and other aspects of design methodology. The course content is community driven and while nucleated with concrete examples of course material from the instructors, allows the student body to explore and reflect upon the benefits and drawbacks of the provided examples and to organically investigate alternative approaches through their practice. In this approach, rather than outlining a discrete subset of material, the encompassed material is further refined with generational and cultural learning by the student community. Combining many aspects of pedagogical development in such a unique facility poses a challenge in breakdown and analysis of the effectiveness of these methodologies and learning environments. Granularity in perceived student valuation of concepts were investigated through application of a retrospective survey applied twice per term. The survey analyzed concepts related to active learning, course content and liberal arts and compared them to one another. The survey results are broken down to analyze which concepts the students found to be of most value in their learning, and to evaluate if there are discrepancies between previously reported challenges in acceptance of liberal arts or active learning concepts in relation to this community. Complementary to this analysis is reflective qualitative remarks from the student body in the form of individual comments submitted after course completion. Through analysis of results the refinement of the programming in this unique first year interdisciplinary program can be further data driven and hopefully lead to improved understanding of the intricacies of combined liberal arts – active learning – engineering environments.

Bruce, D. R., & Dziallas, S. (2020, June), Exploring an Active-learning Focus in a Liberal Arts Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34639

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