Asee peer logo

Features Of A Constructivist Microclimate Situated In A Behaviorist Learning Environment At A University Based Engineering Research Consortium

Download Paper |


2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.640.1 - 11.640.12

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Giri Venkataramanan University of Wisconsin-Madison

visit author page

Giri Venkataramanan received the B.E. degree in electrical engineering from the Government College of Technology, Coimbatore, India, the M.S. degree from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, and the Ph.D. degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. After teaching electrical engineering at Montana State University, Bozeman, he returned to University of Wisconsin, Madison, as a faculty member in 1999, where he continues to direct research in various areas of electronic power conversion as an Associate Director of the Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium (WEMPEC). He holds six U.S. patents and has published a number of technical papers.

visit author page


Annette Muetze University of Wisconsin-Madison

visit author page

Annette Muetze received the Dipl.-Ing. in Electrical Engineering of Darmstadt University of Technology /Germany and the degree in General Engineering of Ecole Centrale de Lyon /France in 1999.
In 2004, she received the Dr. tech. degree in Electrical Engineering at Darmstadt University of Technology. Since May 2004, she has been working as Assistant Professor at the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, University of Wisconsin–Madison, WI. She directs research in the areas of electric machine design and has recently been awarded the NSF-Career Award for leading research in the area of electric machine design optimization.

visit author page

Download Paper |

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

Features of a constructivist microclimate situated in a behaviorist learning environment at a university-based engineering research consortium

I. Introduction

A pressing need to reinvigorate the mission of the university to provide effective learning experiences for the students while maintaining the scholarly vitality of the faculty is felt inside and outside the academia. This is readily evidenced by the various calls for reforms that have become the guiding principles for action among the leadership of national educational and research advocacy agencies1-5. Besides various other factors, this near uniform consensus has been due to various studies that have shown the limited effectiveness of the teaching processes in today’s classrooms that are said to be implicitly objectivist or positivist in their epistemic basis6. In the process, the cognitive model for acquisition of knowledge held by educational psychologists has gradually evolved from a behaviorist towards a constructivist viewpoint8. Such a learning process, built upon constructivist epistemic assumptions, attributes a critical and enabling role to the situated variables in realizing cognition9. Learning is said to take place when it is situated in communities of practice, where the learners extend their proximal zone of skills through their interactions with experts10. Arguably, such a viewpoint places an enormous burden in developing and implementing reforms within the existing institutions of education. If one takes a literal view of authentic experiences leading to education, even the role of a school becomes unclear11. However, on examination of successful learning models that exist within the institutions of higher education, one finds examples of thriving communities of practice, exhibiting all the features of constructivist models, particularly in the context of graduate education.

The objective of this paper is to present the prototype features of a situated cognition space as prescribed by the learning environment theorists in a thriving learning community emergent in an engineering research consortium within a university. In this case, the emergence of the learning community has been spontaneous and the evolution of the learning environment has been natural, in that they are the result of action through conventional wisdom and not shaped by a formal application of instructional design theory. The ‘microclimate’ has thus evolved to provide a community of practice for students, while retaining the strong conventional behaviorist models normally ambient in the classrooms at large universities. In describing the features of the prototype, the goal for the paper is to make the case that constructivist learning climate can be fostered within more conventional behavioral learning environments, leading to highly effective and rewarding educational communities.

A brief overview of dominant paradigms of learning theory is presented in Section II. In Sections III and IV the primary prescriptions for instructional design based on the corresponding learning models are presented. The learning environmental features of the case example, namely the Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium are described in Section V, along with informal survey results. The concluding section discusses the implications of the paper as well as the model’s extension towards an undergraduate educational program.

Venkataramanan, G., & Muetze, A. (2006, June), Features Of A Constructivist Microclimate Situated In A Behaviorist Learning Environment At A University Based Engineering Research Consortium Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2006 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015