Implementing Active Learning Approaches to Enhance Learning of Students with Diverse Backgrounds in a First Year Engineering Course
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CONTEXT Introduction to Structures 1801ENG, is a first year engineering course which aims to introduce structural concepts to Architecture and Industrial Design students. The students are from different age groups, cultural and educational backgrounds and bring with them different needs and academic potential. Over the past two years, the teaching team has observed that the majority of the students seem to have adopted a surface learning approach, and thus did not retain the knowledge of the material taught over the course of the semester. Previous researchers have shown that approaches to learning are associated with the students’ perceptions of their learning environment Parpala, Lindblom-‐Ylänne, Komulainen, Litmanen, and Hirsto (2010) as well as different approaches to teaching Trigwell, Prosser, and Waterhouse (1999). It is believed that the passive teaching scheme and the lack of consideration of students’ backgrounds in the design of the learning activities has had a negative effect on students’ engagement, and has encouraged them to adopt surface learning approaches towards the course material. PURPOSE In this study, the effect of collaborative and cooperative forms of active learning on improving students’ engagement and retention of knowledge and its relation to the background of the learner is investigated. APPROACH The relation between the learners’ background and their performance in different types of learning activities and assessments in two consecutive years are investigated herein. The numerical data are presented in form of graphs and tables and the results are validated by formal surveys, performance in the assessments and quantitative and qualitative feedback at the end of semesters. RESULTS The results showed that performance of younger students in a problem solving exam is greatly enhanced by encouraging them to study in groups supervised by the teaching team. Teamwork also proved to have a positive effect on the performance of students with OP>10 in MCQ and analytical report writing assessments. Experiential learning proved to enhance engagement and the retention rate, however allocating extra time to the experiential learning activities had a negative effect on the performance of younger students. CONCLUSIONS Based on the current results, some recommendations have been made that can be used for a redesign of the learning activities and assessments of the course. The recommended changes account for students’ knowledge background, performance in high school and age. The results also highlighted the significant positive effect of learning activities in the form of competitions on the overall performance of the learners.
27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education: AAEE2016
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