University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN15 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 5100-5106
ISBN: 978-84-606-8243-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 7th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2015
Location: Barcelona, Spain
The Environmental Engineering degree of the Faculty of Engineering of Bilbao (UPV/EHU) is a four- year degree which intends to train engineers with an integrated view of the environment, able to address complex environmental problems. The degree’s structure is quite similar to that of the pre-Bologna degrees: the first two years are centered on core fundamental sciences whereas the last two ones are devoted to the application of the contents of these to technical problems. Consequently, many Environmental Engineering degree students are highly unmotivated in the first two years, since they do not find the connection between the fundamental sciences and their specialization, and at the same time, third and fourth years students have difficulties to integrate theory and practice.

With the objective of motivating the students and making them see the connection between the core sciences and the environmental problems, a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) methodology has been progressively designed and implemented in the second year of the degree in Environmental Engineering. The PBL methodology was implemented first in the Geology and Pedology course in the academic year 2012/13. Then, during the academic year 2013/14, the PBL methodology was extended to other two courses of the degree: Ecology and Economics and Business Administration. In such case, the proposed problem, which was the same in these three compulsory courses, was solved simultaneously. To make it possible, it was necessary to apply the knowledge and skills acquired in the three courses and find a solution that was satisfactory from the environmental, social, economic and legal point of view. The present academic year, a new course has been added to the PBL initiative: Thermodynamics. As a result, almost all the courses of the semester (four out of five) are connected by the resolution of a contemporary environmental issue, in this case, the management of an energy crop in order to satisfy the energy demand of a town.

The results obtained up to this years’ experience (the current one is on-going) show better academic results in the courses taking part in this PBL experience than the results obtained in the courses that are not involved in it. Additionally, the opinion polls indicate that the experience is a hard-working but very positive activity for them. Moreover, they affirm that it helps them connecting the basic sciences with its applications, as well as developing important abilities for their future career.

The implementation of such methodology simultaneously in four courses is not an easy task and many problems have to be solved in the way only possible if a very good (and sometimes on-time) communication and relationship among the teachers exists. The objective of this communication is to describe the problems that have been arising during the progressive implementation of this experience and the adopted solutions, in order to offer to the educational community some experience-based guidelines for the application of multi-course problem based learning activities.
PBL methodology, environmental engineering, technology, interdisciplinary nature.