Effective active learning pedagogies in engineering: Just being active is not enough

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Learning is a process, so process engineers should have something to say about effectively managing the learning process. At its simplest, the process that results in learning is thinking (active), and can only take place in the mind of the learner. Pedagogies that encourage or require thinking are therefore the only approaches that are likely to enhance learning, and this is supported by evidence. Such approaches to science education have shown promising results (Deslauriers et al 2011, Weiman 2012). Specific active learning techniques can enhance learning in STEM disciplines. This presentation will describe the implementation of a number of these evidence based approaches in a Thermal Fluid Sciences class.
By implementing a number of techniques, including audience response questions using clickers, pre-class assignments facilitating a degree of flipped classroom approaches, and worksheets with gaps, significant improvements in engagement, with attendance up by 45% and excellent feedback were noted. Of all the activities, students liked the worksheets best, and they were more likely to complete a worksheet that is handed out than they are to complete identical exercises that are presented on screen.
Unfortunately exam performance did not see the upturn in performance that was hoped. So it seems that students were more active, were thinking more in class, but did not perform any better in the end of year exam. Just being active and engaged is not enough, thinking is not enough. How students are thinking, and the specific activities that they are engaged with are also of key importance.
Most of the learning activities used in the initial work have focused on lower level learning outcomes, the building blocks that promote understanding. A new type of worked example class will be presented, where a summative exam question is worked through using audience response, to try and lead students through the thinking processes required to identify and solve an analytical problem. The results of the implantation of this new active learning technique will be presented.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Spring Colloquium of the UK and Ireland Engineering Education Research Network
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 17 Dec 2019
EventUK & Ireland Engineering Education Research Network Spring Colloqui: Building Capacity and growing Collaborations - Technical University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 3 May 20193 May 2019


ConferenceUK & Ireland Engineering Education Research Network Spring Colloqui
Internet address


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