Effective Undergraduate Design-Build-Test Project Implementation: The Need for a Comprehensive Checklist of Self-Evaluation Criteria

Effective Undergraduate Design-Build-Test Project Implementation: The Need for a Comprehensive Checklist of Self-Evaluation Criteria

P. Hermon, C. McCartan (2017).  Effective Undergraduate Design-Build-Test Project Implementation: The Need for a Comprehensive Checklist of Self-Evaluation Criteria. 11.

In 2005 the US National Academy of Engineering of Engineering advocated in its report ‘Educating the Engineer of 2020’ [1] that the “the essence of engineering, the iterative process of designing, predicting performance, building and testing, should be taught from the earliest stages of the curriculum” if graduate engineers are to be adequately prepared to find solutions to the major problems that will face society in the future. Project Based Learning (PBL) advocates cite the development of a range of personal, interpersonal and professional skills in addition to the opportunity to apply disciplinary knowledge in an environment which mimics professional practice as being among the benefits of such an educational approach [2], [3] and thus graduates from PBL programs are potentially better prepared to meet these grand challenges. PBL students have been shown to find such problem based experiences challenging, motivating and enjoyable [4]. Programs featuring significant amounts of PBL also tend to benefit from higher retention rates [5]. The skillsets developed in a PBL based curriculum are highly prized by industry which also enhances students’ employability prospects. In the context of engineering education PBL is realized through design implement experiences which are a fundamental element of a CDIO curriculum and are defined by Standard 5. Effective implementation of PBL however is not a simple matter and not always executed well. The formation and management of project groups can be difficult and students in dysfunctional groups have found the experience painful [6]. Faculty members often do not have experience of managing similar projects in an industrial setting [3] and are also often unfamiliar and uncomfortable in the role of mentor or coach, which is considered preferable for PBL, compared to their normal role of lecturer [7],[8],[9]. There are also infrastructural issues such as access to appropriate workspaces for the construction of prototypes, as well as the associated costs of providing these workspaces and the costs of manufacturing high fidelity and functional prototypes. Indeed some meta-analyses of PBL have found significant variation among implementations, negative effects where PBL was implemented poorly by non-expert tutors [10] and less knowledge acquired by students on PBL programs when tested by exams [11]; although significantly this knowledge was retained for longer when retested at a later date. Such variations in implementation and hence uncertainty of positive outcomes, along with the necessary paradigm shift required in teaching approach and associated resources could be inhibiting more widespread adoption of PBL. Based on the premise that checklists are a simple yet effective means of avoiding gross errors or oversights [12] this paper sets out to develop a self-evaluation checklist for effective PBL implementation by first analyzing the history and development of PBL from its origins in Problem Based Learning techniques applied to medical students through to current best practice in multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary engineering Design-Build-Test (DBT) experiences. It is proposed that the checklist presented here acts as a first draft version that might further be refined by communities of interested engineering education practitioners.

REFERENCES: on request

Proceedings of the 13th International CDIO Conference in Calgary, Canada, June 18-22 2017

Authors (New): 
J Paul Hermon
Charles McCartan
Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
CDIO Syllabus
CDIO Standard 5
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