Engaging Engineering Students in Active Learning and Critical Thinking through Class Debates
Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences
Within the program of engineering, typically there are courses that are heavily dependent on mathematics and derivations of fundamental concepts. A lot of active learning can be done in these classes by using the engineering fundamentals to solve engineering problems, i.e. number crunching. This keeps the students busy and interested in the subject. On the other hand there are some courses that involve a lot of reading and less intense in mathematics. Teaching such courses to engineering
... s can be a challenge. The objective of this paper is to share an innovative method that not only engages active learning in such classes, but also critical thinking in classes that is text heavy. The pedagogy approach adopted is utilizing the idea of a debate competition between students. The students were given the lecture material by the instructor for several weeks. Student teams are formed and are given the task to prepare Questions and Answers on the topics that have been covered in class. These questions cannot be trivial but has to involve higher levels of the Blooms Taxonomy such as application and analysis. Teams take turn to ask questions to each other and the final score is tabulated. At the end of the process, the instructor will focus on individual team members by giving them similar questions. The objective of this is to identify the weak students within teams and to focus on them before the semester ends. The outcome of this pedagogy exercise was interesting. In comparison to the other semesters, students' performance increased, besides increasing their interest in the subject. Student survey showed that the enjoyed the methods used in the class and it has really helped them to better understand the material by peer team-working. The innovative pedagogy approached using in this particular engineering course has showed that active learning is an important element in enhancing students' performance. Besides this, with guidance and examples, students will be able to think in a critical manner on subjects that are text heavy. This is an important element because it develops critical thinking skills in analyzing information. It is recommended that such or similar approaches is adopted for courses that are less mathematics intense in the engineering programs.