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Problem Based Learning In An Undergraduate Electrical Engineering Course

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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

Pedagogy and Assessment in ECE II

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.984.1 - 15.984.6



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Paper Authors


Aman Yadav Purdue University

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Aman Yadav is an assistant professor of Educational Psychology Program at Purdue University. His research focuses on the use of case-based instruction and problem-based learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. In addition to PhD in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology, Dr. Yadav also has Bachelors in Electrical Engineering and Masters of Science in Electrical Engineering. Dr. Yadav has undertaken both quantitative and qualitative research projects and has a strong familiarity with both types of analyses. Address: Department of Educational Studies, Purdue University, 100 N. University Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, phone: (765) 496-2354, fax: (765) 496-1228, email:

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Mary Lundeberg Michigan State University

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Mary Lundeberg is a Professor in the Teacher Education and Educational Psychology Departments in the College of Education at Michigan State University. Her research interests include problem-based and case-based pedagogy in teacher education and science, interactive multimedia environments, scientific literacy, and cultural and gender influences in confidence. She is a co-PI on two National Science Foundation-funded projects involving multimedia case-based learning environments in science, and research on problem-based models of professional development in science. Address: N8423 1251 St., River Falls, WI 54022, phone: 651-331-1839, fax: 715-425-9580, email:

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Dipendra Subedi Michigan State University

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Dipendra Raj Subedi is a Psychometrician at Assessment division of the American Institute for Research, Washington, D.C. He holds PhD in Measurement and Quantitative Methods and a Masters in Educational Technology. Dr. Subedi also holds a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering. His research interests focus on Engineering Education, Educational Assessment, and Computational Statistics. Address: 1000 Thomas Jefferson Street, American Institutes for Research, Washington, D.C.- 20007, Phone: (202) 403-5640, email:

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Charles Bunting Oklahoma State University

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Charles Bunting is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Oklahoma State University. His research focus is electromagnetic modeling and microwave measurements. He is also interested in material characterization in the high frequency and microwave regime (500 MHz - 94 GHz) and the interaction of biological systems and electromagnetic fields. He is a Co-PI on a National Science Foundation grant to restructure undergraduate electrical engineering courses that focus on developing deeper levels of student learning. Address: 202 Engineering South, ECEN, Stillwater, OK 74078 phone: 405-744-1584, email:

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As engineering education has moved from didactic instruction to more learner-centered methodologies, new and innovative techniques are being used to teach engineering student. One such technique is problem-based learning. Problem-based learning (PBL) has its roots in medical field, where it has been used for over a century to portray the complex and ill-structured nature of medicine and to develop complex professional reasoning in medical students. This paper describes an investigation of problem-based learning on undergraduate electrical engineering students’ conceptual understanding. Fifty-five students enrolled in an electrical engineering course at a Mid-western university participated in this student. The study utilized a within- subjects A-B-A-B research design with traditional lecture as the baseline phase and problem- based learning as the experimental phase of the study. Participants completed pre-post tests surrounding the four topics covered in the study. Results suggested that participants' learning gains from problem-based learning were more than learning gains from traditional lecture.


Recently, there has been a shift from using lecture-based teaching methods in the undergraduate courses in engineering disciplines to using a more learner-centered teaching, such as problem- based learning. This shift is fueled by the need for future engineers to demonstrate the use of higher order thinking, problem solving, and interpersonal aspects of a career, such as communication and team-work skills (NAE, 2005). Specifically, the engineering field is seeing shifts in the types of engineers needed to emerge from college ready to participate as active and effective members of a global society. This leads to the search for a new pedagogy that will allow students to have higher critical thinking skills and create problem solvers who can work in the complex and ill structured environment. However, it is not an easy task to teach students to deal with the changing nature and unpredictability of the field and the problems that will emerge. Yet students need to develop skills that will allow them to continually learn, problem-solve, and adapt. One approach, problem-based learning (PBL) has the potential to help students to cope with the demands of the complexities of the field.

Problem-based Learning (PBL) Problem-based learning is a non-traditional, inductive, student-centered approach that centers on the introduction of a real-life problem (Ehrlich, 1998). The problem is “a complex task created by the need to design, create, build, repair, and/or improve something” (Burgess, 2004, p.42). The students seek to solve this problem through investigation such as inquiry, creating and testing hypotheses, collecting data, obtaining and utilizing resources, and independent and collaborative research. PBL was developed in the 1950s to respond to criticism that traditional lecture did not prepare medical students for problem-solving in clinical settings (Hung, Jonassen, and Liu, 2008).

Problem-based learning in engineering education. The fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education have increasingly implemented problem-based

Yadav, A., & Lundeberg, M., & Subedi, D., & Bunting, C. (2010, June), Problem Based Learning In An Undergraduate Electrical Engineering Course Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16597

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