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On Implementation Of Problem Based (Pbl) Pedagogy Approaches To Engineering Education: Multi–Variant Models And Epistemological Issues

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

New Learning Paradigms I

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.919.1 - 15.919.12



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Paper Authors

author page

Waddah Akili Iowa State University

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

On Implementation of Problem-Based (PBL) Pedagogy Approaches to Engineering Education: Multi–variant Models and Epistemological Issues

Abstract: This paper focuses on the implementation of problem–based learning (PBL) in an engineering program, and argues that implementation of problem-based learning needs to be placed in a context and must be developed with careful consideration of the social, economic, and ethnic diversity of the student population and the university academic culture and prevailing norms. It includes a brief history, selected PBL models, strategies to infuse PBL in an engineering program, and suggestions for redesigning classes and courses to catalyze change in the classroom environment through student engagement. The paper also addresses the potential difficulties that could arise during implementation of PBL, particularly when instructors are new to this instructional method.


Achieving change via engineering education reform is a formidable challenge to any college of engineering, whether in North America or anywhere else in the world. In the past two decades engineering educators have tried to implement relatively new methodologies in the classroom, primarily characterized by students’ active engagement or involvement in his or her academic work, resulting in better retention of new knowledge and acquisition of desirable personal traits. Any such method that engages students in the learning process is labeled as: “active learning” method. In essence, active learning requires doing meaningful learning activities in groups under the guidance of an informed and experienced teacher. As stated by Christensen et al 1, “To teach is to engage students in learning.” The main point is that engaging students in learning is principally the responsibility of the teacher, who becomes less an imparter of knowledge and more a designer and a facilitator of learning experiences and opportunities. In other words, the real challenge in college teaching today is not covering the material for the students, but rather uncovering the material with the students 2.

There are several strands of pedagogies of engagement under the umbrella of active learning methods that have received attention by engineering educators world-wide 2, 3. These methods/approaches are known to increase students’ active engagement in learning and also promote cognitive elaboration, enhance critical thinking, and contribute toward social and emotional development. For many faculty, there remain questions about what “active learning” is and how it differs from traditional engineering education, since the latter involves activities through homework assignment, laboratories, and, often, group projects. Adding to the confusion, engineering faculty do not always understand how the common forms of “active learning” differ from each other and most are not inclined to search for answers Of the most known and utilized classroom-based pedagogies in engineering education today, and appear to be moving in the same broad direction, are: problem-based learning, cooperative learning, and collaborative learning 2.

Akili, W. (2010, June), On Implementation Of Problem Based (Pbl) Pedagogy Approaches To Engineering Education: Multi–Variant Models And Epistemological Issues Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15925

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