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How to Approach Learning: Engineering Students’ Perceptions of Project-based and Problem-based Learning at an International Branch Campus in the Middle East

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Student Division Technical Session 2

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Paper Authors


Alaa Abdalla Texas A&M University at Qatar Orcid 16x16

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Alaa Abdalla is a mechanical engineering student, class of 2019, at Texas A&M University at Qatar. Besides engineering she enjoys learning theoretical Math and Physics concepts. She pursued a minor in mathematics alongside her bachelor’s degree. She is also actively involved in writing and reading initiatives on campus. Currently, she is working on her undergraduate research thesis that looks at the language diversity of engineers in Qatar. Her primary research interests are cultural factors in engineering learning, assessment methods, and project-based learning.

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Rinith Reghunath Texas A&M University at Qatar

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Rinith Reghunath is an Electrical Engineering sophomore studying at Texas A&M University at Qatar, who is expected to graduate in 2021 with a minor in Mathematics. He possesses technical expertise in various programs such as C, C++, MATLab, Verilog, RobotC and Arduino. He currently works with Dr. Amy Hodges on research projects revolving around engineering education and technical communication in the workplace. He has received awards for academic excellence and extracurricular competitions such as ‘Invent For The Planet’, for designing and building an innovative engineering solution to make the recycling process more efficient. He also has great leadership experience through his exceptional organizational skills, leading large-scale events and teams throughout his campus life.

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Midhat Javaid Zaidi Texas A&M University at Qatar Orcid 16x16

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Midhat J. Zaidi is a chemical engineering undergraduate student studying at Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ). She is class of 2020. She has been involved in various research opportunities as well as being active in extracurriculars at TAMUQ and leading organisations and university projects. She takes pride in the experiences that have shaped her into the capable student that she has become. Through both her current research work at university and her future experiences after graduating as an engineer, Midhat hopes to be of service to many engineering and non-engineering communities.

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Amy Hodges Texas A&M University at Qatar

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Dr. Amy Hodges is an instructional assistant professor at Texas A&M University at Qatar, where she teaches first-year writing and technical and business writing courses. She also leads the Writing Across the Curriculum initiative and coordinates the undergraduate writing courses. Currently, she is working on a project examining writing strategies used by engineers in multinational workplaces and the impact of these findings on WAC/WID programs. Her primary research and teaching interests are multilingual writers, writing across the curriculum and writing in the disciplines (WAC/WID), and first-year writing.

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Project-based learning has widely spread as a learning tool that many students find useful. Branch campuses are no exception in terms of assigning projects as a way to achieve learning outcomes. However, the differences arise and are more distinguishable when the cultural diversity of the student population is taken into consideration. This paper aims at forming a better understanding of engineering students’ perceptions of project-based learning in the diverse context of an international branch campus located in Qatar, as well as to provide educators with suggestions on how to better manage group projects that involve a diverse population.

The research project bases its results and recommendations on data taken directly from the branch campus in the form of a focus group. A diverse group of students, from different majors, genders, and classifications were involved in an open-ended discussion on their perspective and experiences with projects, and what elements of a project were the most important to them.

Major findings discussed the role that the culture, of both the diverse group of students and of the physical location of the campus, plays when the students are working on projects. Students ranked teams, and their interaction with fellow team mates as the primary factor responsible for their satisfaction with the project. Other factors that influenced the perspective of the students about projects included relevance of the project to the major and the interest of the students.

We also argue that cultural factors play a large role in students’ perceptions of projects. Recommendations based on this will be useful for instructors working with diverse student populations on project-based learning.

Abdalla, A., & Reghunath, R., & Zaidi, M. J., & Hodges, A. (2019, June), How to Approach Learning: Engineering Students’ Perceptions of Project-based and Problem-based Learning at an International Branch Campus in the Middle East Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32900

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: © 2019 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