ACTIVE LEARNING IN ENGINEERING STUDIES
Rochester Institute of Technology (UNITED STATES)
Studies show that improvements are needed in the readiness of new workforce entrants, especially given global competitiveness. Employers include professionalism, communications, teamwork, and critical thinking among the top five “very important” applied skills for job success for new workforce entrants . Today’s engineers are expected to exhibit competence in professional knowledge, project management, engineering review, decision making and analysis, communications, engineering design and analysis, and leadership . To ensure employability and success of their graduates, educational institutes need to communicate with potential employers for their graduates and identify their expectations of the newly graduated engineers, and reflect that in their curricula and their teaching and learning process to prepare the students for their future career. Active Learning is, in short, any learning activity engaged in by students in a classroom other than listening passively to an instructor’s lecture . Active learning is a process whereby students engage in higher-order thinking tasks such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. In active learning environments, students typically are involved in activities such as: class discussion, think-pair share, collaborative learning groups, student debates, short writing exercise . Active learning is likely to build critical thinking and communication skills. The objective of active learning is to stimulate students to think about HOW as well as WHAT they are learning and to increasingly take responsibility for their own decision . Active learning varies from the more traditional approach to engineering education where a professor presents a lecture and students complete an associated lab assignment. Moving to an active learning model of engineering education may meet with resistance from faculty and students alike. The benefits of this model, however, may outweigh the challenges presented by this change.
The purpose of this article is to determine if an active learning model of engineering education will better prepare students for the workplace. The questions that guided this investigation include:
• Can the active learning model better prepare engineering students to meet workplace expectations?
• Is the active learning model effective for engineering education?
• Which active learning model techniques are most likely to improve engineering students’ learning outcomes?
• How can engineering students’ expectations be managed to ensure their acceptance of a non-traditional learning model?
The method for this investigation is a comprehensive literature review and analysis. The databases used were Compendex, and IEEE Xplore.