ACTIVE LEARNING IN HIGHER EDUCATION: DEVELOPING PROJECTS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH INDUSTRY
1 University of Minho (PORTUGAL)
2 Instituto de Neuropsicologia e Neurociências Cognitiva e Comportamental Portucalense (INPP) / Universidade Portucalense (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Conference name: 11th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 6-8 March, 2017
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Research has demonstrated that engaging students in the learning process increases their attention and focus, motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills and promotes meaningful learning experiences.
Our society is experiencing sudden changes in work organization in part due to the growing ease with which one can collaborate. Many successful cases of peer-to-peer models of organization arise and assume leading positions in world economy replacing, in many cases, the traditional hierarchical organization. People are evolving and interacting within heterogeneous teams composed by members from many different levels of experience and with distinct skills and backgrounds. Modern economy requires engineers to excel in collaborative and communication skills at an multidisciplinary setting. However, these competences are not usually addressed in most engineering curricula. We believe that in such a demanding environment as the labour market is today, it is essential to promote higher-level critical thinking skills and meaningful learning experiences.
The Integrated Master course in Industrial Engineering and Management at the University of Minho collects ten years of experience in Project Based Learning (PBL) approaches with significant success. The main goal for the organizers of this PBL case is that students go through a rewarding experience, with high levels of engagement and where learning is very effective and significant. The PBL approach applied in the seventh semester at Integrated Master course in Industrial Engineering and Management (University of Minho) is focused in projects in real context in companies in the region; one company project is assigned to each one of the six teams of 10 or 11 students at the beginning of the semester; each team has to analyze a production system in the company basically in terms of its production organization, production planning and control system, information management, and ergonomics; the teams must then identify improvement opportunities, propose solutions for improvements, implement them and check the results; student teams end up with creative and very effective solution for companies in a very professional level. This paradigm can be applied in any project/internship course unit.
Although the outcomes/achievements of the project are more than welcome to companies, that is not the main focus of this study. This paper aims to analyse the impact of the projects (developed in partnership with industry) on student learning, engagement and development of professional skills. Data collection will be based on questionnaires to students and interviews to teachers and company representatives that were directly involved in the project. The results from these ten years of experience in Project Based Learning (PBL) approaches are very encouraging, which support our initial hypothesis that PBL approach significantly promotes students' engagement and learning without requiring any change to prior curricula degree.
Keywords: Active Learning, higher-level critical thinking skills, meaningful learning experiences, partnership with industry, higher education.