A Case Study of How Project-Based Learning Helps Increase Interest, Understanding, and Relevance in Engineering for Learners

Taylor Halverson, Rollin Hotchkiss
2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings   unpublished
Taylor Halverson earned a double major PhD at Indiana University in instructional technology and design and Judaism and Christianity in antiquity. He earned Master's degrees from Indiana University and Yale University. His Bachelor's degree was earned at BYU. Dr. Halverson spent several years working for Cisco in Silicon Valley where he designed creative learning experiences for thousands of customer service agents spread across the globe. Dr. Halverson currently works as a Teaching and
more » ... eaching and Learning Consultant at BYU, assisting faculty members to enhance the student learning experience. He also is a part-time faculty member at BYU, teaching a variety of courses including "The History of Creativity in the Arts, Sciences, and Technology", and a part-time faculty member at Capella University, teaching online PhD learners in instructional technology and design. Dr. Halverson regularly presents at academic conferences and recently published a book on instructional design theory and practice. Abstract Fluid dynamics can be a particularly challenging and intimidating subject for many students in engineering disciplines. However, by helping learners actively discover the relevance and application of the course principles to their own lives, their engagement in the content and enthusiasm for learning can increase. At Brigham Young University (BYU), we designed a competitive project-based learning curriculum for the 79 students in the Civil Engineering course "Hydraulics and Fluid Flow Theory" for the winter and fall semesters 2010. During each semester, students competed in small groups to develop an engaging storyboard that would teach an especially challenging engineering topic to those outside their discipline. The top three winning projects each won prize money. Additionally, the top project from each semester won the opportunity to be professionally developed by BYU's Center for Teaching and Learning. Though students felt some apprehension early on in each semester about this project-based approach to learning, by the end of each semester many of the students confirmed that this learning approach helped them to develop important skills (such as being better communicators and teachers of engineering principles), perform better in teams, develop deeper interest in civil engineering, and to see the application of civil engineering principles to many areas of their everyday lives. This is a case study report documenting student-reported impacts that the project-based learning approach had on student learning and suggested pedagogical improvements for using projectbased learning in this specific course. Based on the collected data, students felt that the competitive project-based approach to learning was helpful to them. They were required to think in new and innovative ways and learn to enhance their communication and teamwork skills, though they thought the timing and the sequence of some aspects of the project-based portion of the course could be revised to better fit the course flow and structure. Students explained that when they were asked to find creative ways to teach the engineering principles to others they found greater relevance in the course material to their own lives and greater engagement to master the material.
doi:10.18260/1-2--17298 fatcat:ze6gitdv3jgajnhan2fb35sfry