DESIGNING ENGINEERING PROJECTS BY MEANS OF SERVICE-LEARNING
New degrees have been launched at our university as a result of applying the European Higher Education rules. This has involved a great reflection and transformation of the learning methodologies in order to activate the skills that students should be able to develop in his later practice.
The new teaching methodologies place emphasis on active student participation, turning students into active protagonists of their education.
The project-based learning (PBL) [http://www.bie.org/] plays a relevant role, owing to the inherently participatory feature of this methodology, in which students construct their own learning motivated and guided by teachers, who present problems as the source to discover the required knowledge.
The selection of problems presented is the product of taking into account the motivations and future professional needs of students. In this sense, service-learning (ApS) (Sevice-Learning) [http://library.queensu.ca/ojs/index.php/ijsle/index] appears as an educational methodology able to combine aspects of motivation and professional applicability, by taking advantage of the educational values of solidarity actions to achieve meaningful learning in knowledge, skills, attitudes and values.
Besides, the growing use of technology requires from the teaching community appropriate skills and behaviours to educate future professionals in the so-called digital age.
Teachers, as part of society, are in a globalized environment, co-learning with students and colleagues from around the world, using quick changing technologies and tools with a potential that constantly surprises us. This requires a constant update of our understanding of the tools which can facilitate the transmission of knowledge and self-learning of our students.
ApS, PBL and Information Technology (ICT) together in the definition of projects enhance the learning of engineering students. Moreover, using these methodologies we are complying with two of the criteria that the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) establishes to accredit programs of Engineering Technology. ABET refers to the “ethical responsibilities, including a respect for diversity”, as well as to the “knowledge of the impact that engineering technology solutions in a societal and global context” [http://www.abet.org/].
Designing appropriate projects through these methodologies requires not only a knowledge of the necessary technological tools, but also a proper planning. This should start by setting the defined competences in the teaching guide of the subjects, in order to be mindful of the learning outcomes associated to them, and should follow with the assessment criteria, which by means of a rubric, would provide our students with information on what we expect from them [http://cms.ual.es/UAL/universidad/organosgobierno/convergencia/index.htm].
This paper presents the experience gained by a group of teachers in the development of activities according to predefined learning outcomes in each subject on the basis of the methodologies and principles outlined above.