Tag Archive: PBL


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Wednesday’s RoboSumo class was going a-ok!

I’m gearing up for the new research fellowship by collecting data here in Ireland–data that I can analyze once I’m situated in London.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been interviewing women who are studying engineering in Dublin. Most of the women I’ve interviewed in this country have completed the design projects that you’ve seen in my prior blogs (RoboSumo, bridge design, and Energy Cube). Although I can’t show you the actual participants in my study for reasons of confidentiality, I’ve included a photo from this past Wednesday’s RoboSumo lab. Our big tournament is in two weeks, and excitement is mounting.  I’m asking students who took these courses three years ago about their experiences with engineering and with working in teams.

I truly believe that interviewing women from DIT over a period of years has helped me become a better teacher, particularly since I started teaching on these projects last autumn. In prior years, I was lending a hand occasionally in Energy Cube, RoboSumo, and bridge design, but most of my time was spent observing classroom and team dynamics.

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Trinity College’s main courtyard in all its mid-day splendor.

Today, I got to sit down and talk with a lovely young woman who started in DIT’s program four years ago, and who transferred to Trinity’s engineering program half-way through. To do this, I hiked across town to Trinity’s campus and the two of us chatted for 80 minutes, over coffee at Trinity’s Science Gallery. I hope the audio recording is clear enough, as I normally work in a much more controlled environment. There were far more distractions today than usual, yet the content of the interview was fascinating.

I interviewed all these women in the past as well, when they were first year engineering students, and now I’m catching back up with them after they completed several years of study. This is what’s referred to as a “longitudinal” study, and I am looking at changes and development over time. I have three more interviews lined up for next week, and I can not wait to hear about these students’ adventures in education and engineering.

 

My Friday afternoons at Dublin Institute of Technology are filled with civil and structural engineering projects. Today, we performance-tested several types of bridges, all designed and built by first year students. Here’s my testing gear, provided by one of my lovely colleagues, Una Beagon:

I believe that hands-on design projects are chock-full of learning opportunities for students, and I’m thrilled to be part of delivering project modules at DIT.

It was the first time for me to personally conduct the testing of the full-size bridge, spanning six meters across the pond in the courtyard of our building. I’ve attached a video of the test of the full-sized bridges and another of testing the model bridges:

Shannon Chance IJEEI’m celebrating the publication of a new journal article today, with the help of Sally O’Neill. She’s one of the librarians here at DIT, and she secured permission and posted the article on DIT’s website, making it free for you and anyone else to download.

The publishing process is glacially slow. I submitted the paper in March 2014, based on a conference paper delivered in 2013. And here I am, in February 2016, with the final publication finally in hand.

Many time, in research, it takes time to see the results of your work. Seeing this in print helps make all these days, sitting at a computer analyzing text, feel more worthwhile. Once I can see that people are downloading it, and once I start getting feedback and citations in other people’s research papers, I’ll celebrate some more.

I know what I’ve learned through this research is useful, because I get to apply it in the classroom and in the design studio. The rewards of printed research are more slow to crystallize but also extremely important, especially for people who want to gain credibility in research and build a career around research.

This new article, written with the help of John Marshall in Michigan and Gavin Duffy here in Dublin, is about Using Architecture Design Studio Pedagogies to Enhance Engineering Education. Simply put, we believe that design education and hands-on forms of learning can help improve the quality and experience of learning in engineering and other STEM disciplines. The results reported in this paper provide support for that claim.

To give you a feel for what I’m describing, this is how we learn in architecture:

Above are pictures from design studios in Lisbon at IST and one for a study abroad program  offered by Hampton University. Very, very hands-on!

These days I’m helping promote similar ways of teaching engineering, which looks similar in many respects:

These are photos from electrical and mechanical engineering projects I’ve helped conduct at Dublin Institute of Technology.

This brand new article is about a specific design studio, conducted at the University of Michigan, that blurred the boundaries distinguishing art and science. It involved students and teachers from architecture, materials science engineering, and art+design working together to design and build “SmartSurfaces.” The paper reports learning outcomes — things the students learned in the  class — as illustrated by the blogs they posted during the semester. Here’s a glimpse of what that experience was like for those students:

For this new paper, I created a matrix to describe design behaviors in relationship to epistemological development (which has to do with how we view knowledge). I compared what the students wrote in their blogs to the definitions in my chart. Doing this, I was able to identify development of design skills as a result of students working in groups, and I even pinpointed some instances of epistemological development. John and Gavin helped check the work so that it would be more credible and reliable. They offered perspectives of insiders in the studio (John) and outsiders interested in group-based learning, Problem Based Leaning (PBL), engineering education, and epistemological development (Gavin).

This article should be of interest to any teacher who wants to help students develop new design, design thinking, or epistemological skills. Please feel free to read it and email me any questions you have, at irelandbychance [at] gmail [dot] com.

Chance, S., Marshall, J. and Duffy, G. (2016) Using Architecture Design Studio Pedagogies to Enhance Engineering EducationInternational Journal of Engineering Education Vol. 32, No. 1(B), pp. 364–383, 2016.

What you see depends upon where and how you look....

What you see depends upon where and how you look….

In engineering, the teaching-from-the-podium-by-manual-and-textbook approach simply isn’t working.  It’s not attracting enough students to study engineering.  It’s not engaging and fascinating enough of them.  It’s not spurring their creative thinking skills in enough ways.

I’m clearly not the only one who has noticed this.  The National Science Foundation and oodles of engineering scholars agree.  And now that the engineering profession — as a group of individuals bound by common knowledge, education, and language — has come to acknowledge these shortcomings, it is time to address the problems head-on.

Fergus Whelan commented that I need to think outside this box....  Thanks to Frank Daly for the fabulous photo.

Not liking to be trapped inside the box….

Making such a change is difficult.  It’s messy and complex.  It requires thinking outside the vocabulary and methods that created the profession in the first place. In line with the old cliché: engineering has to starting thinking outside its own box.  Most people today agree: We need engineers to see and think in new ways.  And indeed, many teachers are:

  • working to prompt the needed type of thinking in engineering
  • testing new teaching methods
  • working to evaluate results

I am one of them.

I have two sets of skills that I am hoping can help in positive ways.  First, I’m an architect and seasoned educator.  Second, I’m an education researcher.  From this vantage point, I see that engineering (programs and pedagogies) can benefit from what architecture programs do.

The architecture profession, for instance, has always used hands-on teaching.  Architecture schools are full of students and full of creative energy.  Architecture and engineering aren’t so different, yet our ideas about what they “are” differ, and the way they are taught differs as well

“Engineering,” I insist, can benefit from design thinking, from techniques used in design education, and from sharing ideas with architects as well.  Upcoming blogs will explain how.


Below is a little gallery of recent research activities, including a short promo video (shot with my iPad in a single take) for our RoboSlam exhibit this weekend’s Dublin Maker event.

This group realized there was a fill material in the crevices of their "Roman Travertine" tile sample.

This group realized there was a fill material in the crevices of their “Roman Travertine” tile sample.

Today we discussed “natural factors” that affect architectural design, such as rock and soil composition. This tied directly to yesterday’s studio class on the HU Point. Today, I was using a technique known as the “flipped classroom” to teach Architectural Ecology. I learned about this technique during my Fulbright fellowship at DIT.

I had assigned my students to read a chapter before class. When they arrived, we started class with ten minutes of journaling.  I asked them to write about the aspect of the chapter they thought was most important to them regarding our site at the Hampton University Point, and to explain why.  I also asked them to identify a topic in the chapter that they didn’t fully understand and explain why/what they didn’t understand about it.

Journaling is my own way of assessing students’ level of understanding of the content.  After ten minutes, I collected journal papers then “flipped the classroom”.  Each student joined the other members of his/her learning group, discussed the issues of confusion they’d each identified, explained to each other what they understood (this is known as “peer teaching”), and researched information on line using their laptops and smart phones.

I circulated around the room, listening, observing,  pointing them in the right direction where necessary,  and making sure they were achieving accurate interpretations.

It became clear that soil and rock composition was the major topic of confusion, so I went ahead and distributed the rock samples I have on hand.  Each group got their own unique rock type to analyze, research, and introduce to the rest of the class. The students did a great job of staying on topic in their discussions, learning, and teaching leach other.

They made sense of sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rock. They began to understand issues of texture, particle size, expandability, drainage, and bearing capacity while they were talking among themselves with my guidance.

A member of each group presented findings to the class and we discussed overarching issues.

Then I projected the Prezi file on the screen, which I’d formatted using a table of contents so we could zoom directly into whichever specific issues were causing confusion. In this case, we needed to go over the soil classification pyramid a bit, but they had already developed pretty strong understanding through the group discussions and rock presentations.

Amazingly, everyone stayed engaged for 1.25 hours!

I didn’t have to nag students to pay attention.

By the end, they seemed to have very good understanding of all the content of the chapter.  I found I had ten minutes to spare at the end to bush on topics of my choice (ones I thought a student or two might still have misconceptions about).

I am loving this new, more interactive, way of teaching.

It’s called “flipping the classroom” because the content is delivered before class (in this case, through a reading), and class time is used to gauge accuracy and depth of understanding and to build upon that base.  It seems to be a much better us of time than presenting everything with equal emphasis, before assessing if the students already understand it!

Not everyone came into the class having read, unfortunately. This problem should correct itself in the future because each student gets a grade for each journal entry. They have to show basic understanding of the reading in order to earn points. They generally start seeing the importance of this after a day or two.

The incoming second year architecture studio cohort at Hampton University.

The incoming second year architecture studio cohort at Hampton University.

Today I applyed what I learned about problem-based learning (PBL), group learning, and student-centered pedagogies while I was on my Fulbright fellowship at Dublin Institute of Technology. I met the students in my second year architecture studio for the first time. Studio looked unlike Day One of this class (ARC201) ever looked before!

We started outside, with team building activities and a name game. Then we formed the teams (i.e., learning groups) that we’ll use for the first five weeks of this semester.

Next, we conducted initial site analysis in a way that was much more engaging than normal. We held a “scavenger hunt” to identify qualities of our project site (the Hampton University Point) that have to do with water.  The students managed to generate a much more interesting list of factors than I’ve ever been able to get them to achieve before; 63 about water alone!

For Friday, each team (of three students) has two assignments due.

Assignment 1 is to draw a plan of our project site to an architectural scale to fill an 18″x24″ sheet of paper.

This problem prompt is pretty specific (close-ended), but it still leaves a number of variables for students to consider and make choices about.  I hope they’ll get a bit competitive and prove they have pride in their work!  I asked the groups to follow a standard PBL format in starting work on this assignment. I asked them to figure out:

  1. What is this assignment asking?
  2. What will we need to know to do this?
  3. What do we already know about this?
  4. What will we need to learn/find out?
  5. What resources will we need?
  6. Who will do what and when?
  7. How will we check for accuracy before it’s due?

Assignment 1 is more straightforward than you might expect for an architecture studio. However, it will lay groundwork for upcoming activities, and it will help me assess where the students are skills-wise and with regard to collaboration. The second assignment is much more open-ended.

Assignment 2 is to make a beautiful object that reveals the essence of water.

I asked the groups to start by watching one of the YouTube videos listed below, and assume that the astronaut/scientist had made the video in response to this assignment. I asked the students to consider the questions above (which are intended to foster “self-direcetd learning”) and to bring to our next studio meeting a final, beautiful object as well as at least three study models that investigating the “essence of water”.  I’ve got my fingers crossed!

The students were more  active, engaged, and enthusiastic about learning than is typical on Day One of this course and I have high hopes for this new method of teaching.

NASA: Amazing Experiments with Water in Zero Gravity – YouTube

NASA: Amazing Experiments with Water Balloons in  – YouTube

Seminar with engineering teachers from the University of Minho who use PBL.

Seminar with engineering teachers from the University of Minho who use PBL. (It was very cold in the room; everybody is huddled for warmth!)

These photos are from my trip to the Guimarães campus of the University of Minho — to visit engineering professors and tour the Department of Production Systems, at the university’s Engineering School.

My primary host there, Natascha van Hattum-Janssen, has been working as a Senior Researcher, Research Centre in Education. She has amassed quite an impressive record of publications. Her husband, Ferrie van Hattum, is a Polymer Engineer and has been serving as the Course Director of the Product Design degree program of the University of Minho, although both of them are now relocating to an institute in the Netherlands.

Natascha and her colleagues organize the annual PAEE symposium. The PAEE website explains:

The Department of Production and Systems of the University of Minho, the Research Centre for Education of the University of Minho, the Iberoamerican Association of Engineering Education Institutions (ASIBEI) and the Curriculum Development Working Group of SEFI – the European Society for Engineering Education – aim to join teachers, researchers on Engineering Education, deans of Engineering Schools and professionals concerned with Engineering Education, to enhance active learning approaches in Engineering Education through workshops and discussion of current practice and research.

The Fifth International Symposium on Project Approaches in Engineering Education PAEE 2013 will take place in the Netherlands and is hosted by the Eindhoven University of Technology. 

I served as a paper reviewer for this year’s conference and I hope to attend an PAEE event in coming years.

I dropped the ball telling you about my trip to Portugal and Belgium… I still have lots to show you!  When I last wrote about my Fulbright Inter-Country Lecturing adventures, we were in Aviero and Agueda with  José Manuel Nunes de Oliveira.

Here are a couple more of the modernist buildings at the University of Aviero.

We've got 19 shining faces in the Problem-Based Learning module we are conducting on Tuesdays in May.

We’ve got 19 shining faces in the Problem-Based Learning module we are conducting on Tuesdays in May. (Not to mention three shiny teachers!)

In the Fulbright application I submitted two Augusts ago, I promised to co-teach a class at DIT that used Problem-Based Learning.  At the time I applied, I anticipated that I would co-teach an architecture course.  But in the course of the interviews I conducted, I discovered it had been quite a while since DIT’s Learning, Teaching and Technology Centre (LTTC) had offered a module for faculty/staff on how to implement Problem-Based Learning.

I’ve witnessed such remarkable results that seem to have accrued as a result of the topic having been offered in the past–by Terry Barrett and Brian Bowe.

So, I recruited some folks (Orla Hanratty, Brian Bowe, and Gavin Duffy) to help and 19 students enrolled in the course.  Here are some photos from Day One….

Past projects made by students...

Projects that students made in past years at the engineering school in Agueda.

I misunderstood the credit allotment for projects at Escola Superior de Tecnologia e Gestão de Águeda.  As it turns out, the project design courses carry credits in keeping with architecture design courses in the States.  Jose sent me this explanation:

Hi Shannon, 

Good to hear from you, and thanks for sharing your blogpost.
I am afraid, though, that you didn’t get the project dynamics right. Projects are awarded, on average, 6 ECTS, which is more than they get for each of the supporting courses (we call them that, too), which tend to have 3ECTS each. At the end of the semester, the groups of students have to write a report and there’s a public discussion of their work, before a panel that includes the project supervisor and, usually, an external member (from another HE institution or from industry). Students get individual grades for their project work. 
 
In fact, the number of credits associated with project work (exclusively, not including the supporting courses) in the program is roughly 30% of the total number of credits.
 
Cheers,
 
José
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