June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
Design in Engineering Education
12.1006.1 - 12.1006.7
Learn and Serve - Design Projects for the Community
Learning can be engaging and meaningful if the joy of discovery and learning context are incorporated into the instructional method. In this highly competitive business and complex social environment, our approach to teaching must be based on sound pedagogy that helps our students to “uncover” the principles instead of being told of them. Research indicates real learning occurs when learners are immersed in realistic situations in which they are forced to perform, get feedback, take action, and given chances to correct or adjust their responses. There are many ways to simulate such situations using approaches such as scenario-based learning1-2 and project-based learning. However, the most effective approach for learning is learn-by-doing real projects for real people.
Real projects that can directly benefit communities we live in offer a unique way to Learn and Serve. Design for community provides a meaningful context to address real problems in complex settings rather than simplified problems in isolation.
This paper describes how design projects for community provides authentic learning experiences for the students and challenges in implementing such projects as well as the benefits of these projects to the community. The projects described include design of devices for people with developmental disabilities as well as products designed for use in developing countries.
Authentic Learning Experience through Design projects for the Community
In general discussions, engineering educators would agree with the concept of authentic learning experiences and tend to think that a modified version of the traditional project based learning approach would do it all. This may very well be true in some cases, but it is incorrect in general. In order to develop a truly authentic learning experience, the theoretical underpinnings between the two approaches must be clearly understood. Traditional instructional strategies typically link curriculum and teaching methods such that an educator can deliver knowledge to as many students possible within a short period of time.
According to NCREL3, this approach assumes that properly managed instruction enables most students to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to continue to learn. Practice and repetition, with frequent tests of recall and recitation, characterize this approach. This approach is the only one that many parents and educators have ever known, and their level of comfort with this model will make it very difficult to supplant.
Thus the predominant, pedagogical model today is based on a teacher-centered, didactic approach to instruction. This is mostly due to the fact that educators, parents, as well as administrators have never encountered a learning experience in which they constructed meaning from the experience. Learn and serve projects, involving local communities, by its nature provide an authentic learning experience4.
Jawaharlal, M., & Rezaei, A., & Monemi, S. (2007, June), Learn And Serve – Design Projects For The Community Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/2336
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