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Progressive Use of Active Learning in Electrical Engineering Courses

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

NEE 1 - Innovative Teaching & Learning Strategies

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

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Paper Authors


Ahmed Dallal University of Pittsburgh Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Dallal is an assistant professor at the department of electrical and computer engineering, Unversity of Pittsburgh, since August 2017. Dr. Dallal primary focus is on education development and innovation. His research interests include biomedical signal processing, biomedical image analysis, and computer vision, as well as machine learning, networked control systems, and human-machine learning.

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Renee M. Clark University of Pittsburgh

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Renee M. Clark is a research assistant professor of Industrial Engineering and Director of Assessment in the Swanson School of Engineering and the Engineering Education Research Center (EERC). She received her MS in Mechanical Engineering from Case Western and her PhD in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh while working for Delphi Automotive. Her research interests focus on the propagation and assessment of active and experiential learning in engineering education.

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Active learning has been shown to be more effective than passive learning within a traditional lecture setting. Simple active learning techniques can increase understanding, especially when the materials are abstract and hard to visualize. Due to the large amount of mathematical modeling with simplifying assumptions in electrical engineering (EE) classes (compared to operation of real physical systems), undergraduate laboratory courses on electronics and signals are well suited for the adoption of active learning. This paper describes the progression of the instructor’s use of various student-centered and active learning techniques in his EE lab courses, from simple to more-involved techniques. His objectives ranged from increasing interactivity during class to tailoring class time to students’ needs and questions. He has adopted various techniques, including think-share, think-pair-share, observe and comment, group discussion, and the flipped classroom. These methods have shown increased student understanding of the differences between mathematical models and physical realizations of systems. Adding active learning exercises to these laboratory courses has increased interactivity among the students and addressed student difficulties in ways that are effective and generally enjoyed by the students. This paper also describes the ways in which the instructor was drawn or exposed to active learning throughout his teaching career, leading to the adoption of these techniques. Initially, he adopted it naturally (as a graduate-student instructor) so students would focus on and practice their work. As he began to attend formal workshops on active learning as a faculty member, he received new perspectives on and motivations for using active-learning. An active learning workshop in the summer 2018 provided new perspectives on the minute paper and also motivated him to use more involved active-learning techniques, including the flipped classroom and inductive learning. Consequently, the instructor decided to adopt the flipped classroom for the last two modules of his electronic design laboratory in the summer as well as for a signal processing lab in the fall 2018. Although the students’ feedback was encouraging for his first flipped-classroom implementation in the summer, it included concerns. Therefore, before adopting the flipped classroom for signal processing in the fall, the instructor asked students to vote on its use, with 70% voting for the flipped classroom over traditional lecture, prompting its use. The effectiveness of these techniques was formally assessed by comparing student work before and after the active learning implementations, and these results will be discussed. Student surveys and interviews were used to measure perceptions of the active learning, and these results will also be discussed, with clear indications these techniques were positively perceived by the students.

Dallal, A., & Clark, R. M. (2019, June), Progressive Use of Active Learning in Electrical Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33201

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