DESIGN OF COOPERATIVE AND PROBLEM BASED LEARNING ACTIVITIES FOR AN ENGINEERING THERMODYMAMICS COURSE. A CASE STUDY
Nowadays, engineers and scientists work as teamwork, not individually. Then, the value of the abilities to work in a group and communication skills against technical and the intellectual capacities, has increased in the selection processes. This means that University, which acts as facilitator of student’s learning, must provide a guide for acquiring and developing these skills.
An important function of cooperative learning and problem based learning (PBL) is to reduce the common student attitude that the instructor is the only source of truth and wisdom, since their teammates are part of their learning. The adaptation of University European Higher Education Area also requires orienting the teaching styles to the development of competences, instead of the mere transmission of knowledge. Student centered collaborative and PBL styles have shown to be more efficient for competences development than teacher centered styles. Moreover, the e-Learning technologies, such us Moodle, based in constructivist learning, offer very useful tools for the application of both problem-based and cooperative learning.
The objective of this work was to design different types of learning activities or tasks based in cooperative learning and PBL in an Engineering Thermodynamics course for Chemical Engineering undergraduates, to put them into practice and to evaluate the results. Both traditional teaching styles (teacher-centred lecture and well defined problem solving classes) and cooperative and PBL styles have been combined; first, because the best learning style for each student and for each learning content can vary and secondly because traditional teaching styles, do not enhanced creativity, nor social competence.
Two types of cooperative and problem based learning activities have been designed and applied.
1. Workshop style activities. During the course the students worked in small groups (3 member) and also individually in seven tasks using wiki and data-base tools in Moodle. The task was initially non-presential until its completion. Then, a presential round table workshop between teacher and 6 students was performed in order to asses each contribution, leading to a real communication among the students, due to disagreements, misunderstandings or wish of getting more information.
Moodle’s wiki tool was used for collaboratively creation of documents and the data–base for sharing learning: students can see and compare the rest the students’ or groups’ task outcomes with their own outcomes, but only after they have published their own outcomes, so as to assure creativity and promote self assessment.
2. Project style task. Each three member group made a basic design of a cogeneration system using a micro turbine technology for heating air in a covered swimming-pool. Collaborative learning was also applied in peer assessment.
Results shown that those student less motivated in the traditional teaching style, actively worked in the workshop and project style activities. They improved in cross-curricular competences such us writing and synthesis, the use of scientific language, capacity to confront new problems, team-working skills, participation in discussion forums, capacity to connect different learning subjects,… A feedback questionnaire was used to contrast teacher’s assessment with the students’ assessment of the learning outcomes.