June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Educational Research and Methods
23.634.1 - 23.634.18
Gender Differences in the Long-term Impacts of Project-Based LearningAbstractProject-based learning (PBL), an educational method involving open-ended problem solvingtoward a specific goal or objective, has become increasingly common in engineering education.PBL can be employed across the curriculum and at different stages of a student’s education, and,given its social and contextual nature, may hold particular appeal for female engineeringstudents. Previous studies have investigated the effect of gender on PBL, concluding that genderaffects learning outcomes and also impacts how students approach project work. This paperextends those findings with insight into how the long-term impacts of PBL differ by gender.A recent externally-conducted alumni survey investigated long-term impacts of PBL through astudy of 38 years of graduates from a technology-focused university featuring a project-basedcurriculum. These alumni had each completed at least eighteen credit hours of open-endedproblem solving experiences: nine credit hours addressing an interdisciplinary problem, andnine credit hours addressing a problem in their major field. These project experiences did nottake the form of courses, but rather were organized as independent inquiry, typically conductedin small student teams under faculty guidance, often in response to a problem posed by anexternal sponsor.Web-based, asynchronous interaction with a sample of alumni stratified for year of graduation,sex, and major informed survey development. The Likert scale survey explored 39 areas ofpositive professional and personal impact of the two major PBL experiences. Impact areasincluded professional skills (e.g., project management, problem solving, collaboration,communication, leadership); world views (e.g., understanding connections between technologyand society, understanding global issues); and personal impacts (e.g., development of personalcharacter, enrichment of life in ways not related to academics, achievement of work/lifebalance).Surveyed alumni were asked to what extent their PBL experiences impacted them in each area.The online survey was administered to a randomly-selected sample of alumni and yielded 2,526responses with a confidence interval of ±1.8% at a confidence level of 95%. For each of the 39impact areas of PBL that the survey explored, a higher percentage of females reported “much” or“very much” positive impact when compared to males, both for engineering students and for theentire sample. Mann-Whitney U tests revealed that the distributions of female responses werestatistically significant different than those of male responses for 36 of the 39 impacts (p<.05).This paper will present and discuss detailed findings regarding gender differences in long-termimpacts of PBL. The discussion will be informed by analysis of post-survey in-depth interviewswith male and female alumni.
Vaz, R. F., & Quinn, P., & Heinricher, A. C., & Rissmiller, K. J. (2013, June), Gender Differences in the Long-Term Impacts of Project-Based Learning Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19648
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