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Perceived Learning Effect and Guidance in Project-Based Engineering Education

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Fostering Student Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1150.1 - 22.1150.24



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Paper Authors


Christel Heylen Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium

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Christel Heylen obtained her Masters of Science in Materials Engineering in June 2000 and the Academic Teacher Training Degree in 2004, both from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. She is a member of the Tutorial Services of the Engineering Faculty and is responsible for the implementation and daily coordination of the course "Problem Solving and Engineering Design" in the first year of the bachelor of engineering at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, with a special focus on the didactic interpretation. Regarding this subject, she obtained a Ph.D. in Engineering in August 2010 from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. She is a member of LESEC (Leuven Engineering and Science Education Center).

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Herman Buelens Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium

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Herman Buelens is head of the Centre for Educational Development at the University of Leuven, Belgium.

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Jos Vander Sloten Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium

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Perceived learning effects and guidance in project based engineering educationIntroductionParallel to the regular coursework, all first year engineering students at K.U.Leuven take theproject based course “Problem Solving and Engineering Design” that introduces them intoreal engineering practice and teamwork. The concept of this course is to integrate basicprinciples of the regular scientific courses while working in small groups on design projects.That way the students gradually acquire technical and social skills like information andsimulation tools, experimental work, systematic approach to problem solving and engineeringdesign, teamwork and communication skills, critical attitude and creativity. Each team iscoached by a tutor who provides feedback on the content of the project, the problem-solvingprocess and the team functioning. The tutors do not provide ready-made answers, butemphasize self-support. In addition, experts are invited to explain more in detail theapplication of the basic principles taught in the regular scientific courses.HypothesesBased on literature, five guidance-tasks were defined: guidance of the team cooperation (1),guidance with respect to the content of the assignments (2), clarifying objectives andevaluation of the course (3), stimulation of self-activation (4) and providing individual andteam feedback (5). It was hypothesized that all these guidance-tasks correlate positively withstudent learning.Materials and methodsDuring two subsequent academic years (2005-2006 and 2006-2007) several hundreds ofstudents filled out a questionnaire measuring the perception of the students concerning theguiding, the concept of the course and the perception of their learning. All statements werescored on a six-point scale (1 = I strongly disagree; 6 = I strongly agree).Principal component analyses were performed and corresponding “guidance” and “studentlearning” scales were constructed. The constructed scales are meaningful and confirm theclassifications of the statements made on beforehand.To test the stated hypotheses, regression analyses were performed, with the “studentlearning” scales as dependent variable and the “guidance” scales as independent variables.Findings and conclusionThe results confirm the importance for the student learning to provide clear information aboutthe course (guidance-task 3) and the significance of coaching the cooperation and teamlearning (guidance-task 1).Interesting is the lack of correlation between the “student learning” scales and “contentrelated guidance by the tutor” (guidance-task 2). There even seems to be a bit of a negativetrend. The input of the experts however, which appeared in the results as a separate“guidance-scale”, correlates positively with most of the “student learning” scales. Theseexperts also provide content-related guidance, but they do not know the assignments in detail.This makes their contribution more relevant with respect to student learning objectives likeself-support, critical attitude and problem solving skills.Because of the limited resources most effort should be put into the most important guidancetasks. The results of this study suggest to separate even more clearly the content- and process-related guidance in future project work.

Heylen, C., & Buelens, H., & Sloten, J. V. (2011, June), Perceived Learning Effect and Guidance in Project-Based Engineering Education Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18497

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