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Student Designing, Mentoring, And Learning In A Laboratory Environment

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.472.1 - 4.472.5

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Paper Authors

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Arnold F. Johnson

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

Session 2326

Students Designing, Mentoring, and Learning in a Laboratory Environment Arnold F. Johnson

University of North Dakota

Abstract An innovative approach for conducting laboratory courses in an electronics sequence is presented. This approach, which relies heavily on student involvement, is not only interesting, current, and meaningful to the students, but also efficient and effective from an instructional viewpoint. Students take a very proactive part in this laboratory experience, which provides them with many opportunities for leadership, design, communication, teamwork, planning, and originality. The methodology used also provides an educational depth not normally experienced in traditional laboratory assignments.

In this approach, the entire class is divided into groups of three or four students (known as lead- groups) who are each responsible for preparing two laboratory experiments during the semester. Instead of the students performing laboratory experiments that are pre-defined by the instructor, they develop their own new experiments under the instructor’s guidance. The lead-group meets with the instructor to select a topic that is pertinent to the material being covered in the concurrent lecture class. A rough methodology is laid out for the lead-group students to design, test, and refine their experiment in a laboratory environment. The students prepare both prelab and lab assignments which are distributed to the remainder of the class prior to the scheduled lab session. Since the lead-group has become very familiar with the laboratory exercise, they are assigned the responsibility of administering the labs (acting as mentors) as their classmates perform the lab exercises.

Not only are the laboratory exercises current and relevant to what is being covered in the classroom, but they also provide an interesting open-ended laboratory design experience to the lead-group and an opportunity for these students to share their knowledge and experience with their peers. As active learners of technology, their communication and leadership skills are enhanced, along with their self-confidence. The author has been conducting his laboratories in this manner for the past three years, and the students respond very positively to this intensive involvement and experience.

Motivation for Change There were a number of underlying motivational factors that provided the impetus for a structural change in the electronics laboratory sequence in the electrical engineering department at the University of North Dakota (UND):

• The current laboratory experiments had been used for a number of years and needed revision. • A different text was being used in the sequence and experiments needed updating.

Johnson, A. F. (1999, June), Student Designing, Mentoring, And Learning In A Laboratory Environment Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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