Directed Student Engagement and Learning in a Large Engineering Unit

Directed Student Engagement and Learning in a Large Engineering Unit

D. Hargreaves (2016).  Directed Student Engagement and Learning in a Large Engineering Unit. 10.

Most students when entering tertiary education have little idea what an engineer actually does. It is critical, therefore, that students transitioning into their university engineering program are exposed to learning experiences that allow them to grasp very early in their studies an understanding and appreciation of what real engineering practice is, and how this practice fits with their chosen degree program and how it supports their career aspirations. In 2011, the author was driven by an abiding commitment to broaden students’ understanding of this profession, their insight into the scope of their capabilities as professional engineers, and to inspire and motivate them through learning about the challenges and opportunities they will face as professionals. It was from this premise that he spearheaded the development and introduction of a new core first year unit, a unit focused on real engineering practice. As a ‘transition in’ unit for predominantly domestic and secondary school leaver student cohorts, the unit served as a gateway to all engineering disciplines. The author’s positive impact and influence on student learning was based on CDIO methodology through ‘directed’ peer- and self-learning leading and teaching this unit in collaborative learning spaces and integrating the Engineers Without Borders Challenge into it. Hargreaves et al (1997) argued that the role of lecturer would shift to that of facilitator. Almost two decades later, this perspective has not changed: it parallels current teaching approaches and strongly resonates with a long-held belief that peer learning and teamwork are crucial in developing the global engineer, a view also shared by industry. It was from this basis that the author guided (‘direct’) his students’ learning, inspiring and motivating them to embark on a self-learning journey about what it means to be a professional engineer. With this particular student demographic, combined with the author’s extensive teaching and industrial experience, these first year students are not yet ready to ‘go it alone’. As such, they are not expected to be self-directed learners; instead, tutors ‘direct’ them to what they should learn. This is facilitated in technology-rich, collaborative learning spaces through the formation of small study groups who remain working together throughout the entire semester. By flipping the concept of self-directed learning to ‘directed’ peer- and self-learning, the students are motivated and supported by their peers during their first year learning journey at university. Despite the size of this 1000+ student cohort and teaching team of 20+ tutors, student satisfaction scores (as judged by QUT evaluation indictors) jumped in the first year of implementing this teaching approach to 4.5 and above (on a 5-point scale); this satisfaction remains high with students’ evaluation scores averaging 4.4, exceeding both the faculty (4.0) and university (4.1) averages over this same period. This innovative approach also halved the attrition rate for first year engineering.

Cited Reference Hargreaves, D. J., & Ternel, I. D. (1997). The changing role of the engineering educator. 9th AaeE Conference, Ballarat, Vic.

Proceedings of the 12th International CDIO Conference, Turku, Finland, June 12-16 2016

Authors (New): 
D J Hargreaves
Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Student engagement
Student learning
Directed self-learning
Directed peer-learning
Professional skills
CDIO Standard 1
CDIO Standard 2
CDIO Standard 3
CDIO standard 4
CDIO Standard 5
CDIO Standard 6
CDIO Standard 8
CDIO Standard 10
CDIO Standard 12
Boles, W., Jolly, L., Hadgraft, R., Howard. P., & Beck, H. (2010). Influences on student learning in engineering: Some results from case study fieldwork. Australasian Journal of Engineering Education, 16(2), 149-165: 
Felder, R. & Brent, R. (2005), Understanding student differences, Journal of Engineering Education, 94(1), 57-72: 
Hargreaves, DJ (1998): Promoting understanding through active participation in tutorials and lectures, 10th AaeE Conference, Gladstone, Sept. pp 75-79.: 
Hargreaves, D. J., & Ternel, I. D. (1997). The changing role of the engineering educator. 9th AaeE Conference, Ballarat, Vic: 
Hargreaves DJ (2001): Integrating workplace experience into an engineering curriculum”, Proc “Effective Teaching and Learning” conference, Brisbane, 12-14 November: 
Joint Information Systems Committee. (2006). Designing Space for Effective Learning: A Guide to 21st Century Learning Space Design. Retrieved August 12, 2012, from 
Oblinger, D. G., ed., (2006). Learning Spaces. Retrieved from 
Radcliffe, D., Wilson, H., Powell, D. & Tibbetts, B. (2008) Designing Next Generation Places of Learning: Collaboration at the Pedagogy-Space-Technology Nexus. Retrieved August 12, 2012, from 
Rasmussen, R., Dawes, L., Hargreaves, D., & James, J. (2012). From tiers to tables— enhancing student experience through collaborative learning space. Proceedings of the 2012 AaeE Conference, Melbourne, Vic.: 
Go to top