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Teaching Circuit Theory Courses Using Team-based Learning

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

New Trends in ECE Education I

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1241.1 - 25.1241.10



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Paper Authors


Robert O'Connell University of Missouri, Columbia

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Robert O’Connell received a B.E. degree in electrical engineering from Manhattan College, N.Y., and a M.S. and Ph.D degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana. He is currently professor and Associate Department Head of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Missouri, Columbia. He recently completed a Fulbright Fellowship, which he used to study modern teaching and learning methods in higher education. He won the College of Engineering Faculty Teaching Excellence Award in 2006 and 2010. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE, a Professional Member of the ASEE, and a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Missouri.

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Pil-Won On University of Missouri, Columbia

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Pil-Won On is Instructional Designer/E-learning Specialist, College of Engineering, University of Missouri, Columbia. He has a M.S. in instructional systems technology, Indiana University, Bloomington.

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Teaching Circuit Theory Courses Using Team-Based LearningResearch has shown that traditional lecturing is a very inefficient way to facilitate conceptuallearning, and that student-centered active learning can result in a deeper understanding of theconcepts in question. Furthermore, when active learning is conducted in an extensively group-based learning environment, students develop various generic, professional functioningknowledge skills, such as problem-solving, written and oral communication, independentlearning, and team work. Team-Based Learning (TBL) is a form of group-based learning thatcan provide both deeper conceptual understanding than can lecture-based learning, anddevelopment of certain professional functioning skills. The purpose of this paper is to describehow, after three semesters of modifications and improvements to the basic TBL process, it isbeing successfully used in the sophomore level electric circuit theory sequence at our institution.In TBL, students are required to independently read and study new material outside theclassroom without significant prior instruction, and to spend considerable class time working onassignments in learning groups, following an instructor-defined scheme defining good groupwork. This arrangement provides them with opportunities to discuss problems and alternativesolutions, which are problem solving skills; and to teach each other, which has been shown toproduce deeper conceptual learning than listening to a traditional lecture. Also, while observinggroup work, the instructor can identify and immediately correct learning difficulties, which is notpossible with the standard traditional lecture method. Despite the potential benefits of usingTBL, several practical challenges have been encountered while attempting to implement it in thesophomore level electric circuit theory sequence. These include motivating students to study andlearn new material before encountering it in the classroom; motivating them to engage properlyin group work, and motivating them to engage in the formative/summative assessment processesused. To overcome these challenges, several evolutionary revisions to the basic TBL processhave been made during the three semesters that it has been used.The paper will describe the basic TBL learning strategy and the revisions that have been made inorder to optimize its use in the circuit theory sequence. Instruments currently used tocontinuously assess student engagement in the preparation and participation phases of thestrategy will be described, as will the methods used to evaluate how successful it is at facilitatinglearning of electric circuit theory. Preparation assessment instruments now include a preparationnotebook and frequent, unannounced preparation quizzes. Participation in the process is assessedby instructor observation and peer assessment. Evaluation of the success of the learning strategyis by instructor observation and a survey of student perceptions at the end of the course. Theseevaluation tools have led to the modifications of the basic TBL process over the course of threesemesters to the point where it is now being applied quite successfully. These assessment andevaluation tools will be described in detail in the paper.

O'Connell, R., & On, P. (2012, June), Teaching Circuit Theory Courses Using Team-based Learning Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21998

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