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Low-Barrier Strategies to Increase Student-Centered Learning

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Enhancing Teaching and Research

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

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Paper Authors


Nicole Erin Friend University of Michigan

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Nicole Friend is currently a PhD student in the Biomedical Engineering program at the University of Michigan. She received her B.S in Bioengineering: Biosystems from the University of California, San Diego in 2017. Nicole's research interests are centered around regenerating vasculature in ischemic environments. Nicole is also interested in more broadly defining the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine to inform curriculum design and student career trajectories.

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Cassandra Sue Ellen Jamison University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Cassandra (Cassie) Jamison is a PhD Candidate at the University of Michigan. She is pursuing a PhD in Biomedical Engineering (BME) with an Emphasis in Engineering Education. Her research interests involve experiential engineering out-of-class experiences and the professional, personal, and academic outcomes of students engaged in these experiences. She is also involved in student outcomes research in the BME Department and with the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Office, College of Engineering at Michigan. Cassie received a B.A. in Engineering Sciences at Wartburg College (Waverly, IA) and a M.S. in BME from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor).

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Aileen Huang-Saad Northeastern University

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In February 2021 Dr. Huang-Saad joined the Bioengineering faculty at Northeastern University and became the Director
of Life Sciences and Engineering Programs at The Roux Institute (Portland, Maine). Dr. Huang-Saad has a fourteen-
year history of bringing about organizational change in higher education, leveraging evidence-based practices
at University of Michigan. She created the U-M BME graduate design program, co-founded the U-M College of Engineering Center for Entrepreneurship, launched the U-M National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps Node,
and developed the U-M BME Instructional Incubator. She is a canonical instructor for both the NSF and National
Institute of Health (NIH) I-Corps Programs. Dr. Huang- Saad has received numerous awards for her teaching and
student advising, including the 1938E College of Engineering Award, the Thomas M. Sawyer, Jr. Teaching Award, the
U-M ASEE Outstanding Professor Award, the International Teaching with Sakai Innovation Award, and the College of
Engineering Outstanding Student Advisor Award. Aileen has worked in the private sector gaining experience in biotech, defense, and medical device testing at large companies and start-ups. Aileen’s current research areas include entrepreneurship engineering education, impact and engaged learning. Aileen has a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, a Doctorate of Philosophy from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.

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Evidence has shown that facilitating student-centered learning (SCL) in STEM classrooms enhances student learning and satisfaction. However, despite increased support from educational and government bodies to incorporate SCL practices, minimal changes have been made in undergraduate STEM curriculum. Faculty often teach as they were taught, relying heavily on traditional lecture-based teaching to disseminate knowledge. Though some faculty express the desire to improve their teaching strategies, they feel limited by a lack of time, training, and incentives. To maximize student learning while minimizing instructor effort to change content, courses can be designed to incorporate simpler, less time-consuming SCL strategies that still have a positive impact on student experience.

In this paper, we present one example of utilizing a variety of simple SCL strategies throughout the design and implementation of a 4-week long module. This module focused on introductory tissue engineering concepts and was designed to help students learn foundational knowledge within the field as well as develop critical technical skills. Further, the module sought to develop important professional skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, and communication. During module design and implementation, evidence-based SCL teaching strategies were applied to ensure students developed important knowledge and skills within the short timeframe. Lectures featured discussion-based active learning exercises to encourage student engagement and peer collaboration. The module was designed using a situated perspective, acknowledging that knowing is inseparable from doing, and therefore each week, the material taught in the two lecture sessions was directly applied to that week’s lab to reinforce students’ conceptual knowledge through hands-on activities and experimental outcomes. Additionally, the majority of assignments served as formative assessments to motivate student performance while providing instructors with feedback to identify misconceptions and make real-time module improvements.

Students anonymously responded to pre- and post-module surveys, which focused on topics such as student motivation for enrolling in the module, module expectations, and prior experience. Students were also surveyed for student satisfaction, learning gains, and graduate student teaching team (GSTT) performance. Data suggests a high level of student satisfaction, as most students’ expectations were met, and often exceeded. Students reported developing a deeper understanding of the field of tissue engineering and learning many of the targeted basic lab skills. In addition to hands-on skills, students gained confidence to participate in research and an appreciation for interacting with and learning from peers. Finally, responses with respect to GSTT performance indicated a perceived emphasis on a learner-centered and knowledge/community-centered approaches over assessment-centeredness.

Overall, student feedback indicated that SCL teaching strategies can enhance student learning outcomes and experience, even over the short timeframe of this module. Student recommendations for module improvement focused primarily on modifying the lecture content and laboratory component of the module, and not on changing the teaching strategies employed. The success of this module exemplifies how instructors can implement similar strategies to increase student engagement and encourage in-depth discussions without drastically increasing instructor effort to re-format course content.

Friend, N. E., & Jamison, C. S. E., & Huang-Saad, A. (2021, July), Low-Barrier Strategies to Increase Student-Centered Learning Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37468

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