Universidad Miguel Hernández (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Pages: 7-17
ISBN: 978-84-613-5538-9
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 4th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 8-10 March, 2010
Location: Valencia, Spain
In this paper we present some experiences involving cooperative and competitive learning techniques in three courses included in Engineering degrees in the Miguel Hernandez University (Elche, Spain). The main motivation for this initiative is the fact that “traditional” teaching methods have two main problems: first, it is difficult to motivate students and second, they don’t allow the development of some of the abilities required nowadays, especially in Engineering courses. We believe that it is necessary to change some of the teaching methods we use in order to improve motivation and to obtain the new competences students need in a more globalized world.
The courses considered in this paper are “Automatic and Electronic Systems”, “Advanced Control Systems”, which are taught in the fourth year and “Circuits and Systems Theory”, included in the second year. As a special feature, we have combined cooperative learning with competitive learning, with the objective of increasing the motivation of our students. As it will be shown in this paper, this objective has been achieved.
In all cases this has been the first academic year in which we have used cooperative and competitive learning techniques. So, these techniques have only been considered as a complement to “traditional” learning methods. In our experience, the new methods have had a great success in our classrooms, and we plan to advance progressively towards a teaching environment which is completely based on cooperative learning.

The course “Automatic and Electronic Systems” is divided into two thematic blocks: Instrumentation and Microcontrollers. In the first block (Instrumentation), the cooperative activities consisted on writing a dissertation about sensors and the “cooperative” study for the final exam (the final individual grade for each student would be the average between group grades and individual grades). In the thematic block about “Microcontrollers”, we introduced optional cooperative-competitive exercises and a periodic evaluation with several theoretical and practical tests. In this case, the final grade is obtained taking into account individual and group partial grades. In the block called “Systems Theory”, the students carried out a cooperative assignment which allowed them to obtain up to 10% of the final grade.

In the course about “Advanced Control Systems” the students learn how to design minimum variance controllers, adaptive controllers, optimal controllers and fuzzy controllers. These methods are used to control complex systems (non-linear, high order systems or systems which are difficult to control using classical methods). In general, there exist many possible solutions to the same design problem, so we let the students to propose different alternatives which compete with the designs propose by other groups. All the controllers are evaluated in the laboratory using different performance indexes, obtaining an ordered list which we used to obtain an evaluation for each controller. In this way, the students could have an additional 10% in their final mark of the course.

In our opinion, the results obtained have been excellent. We have observed that many students have participated in the cooperative activities and that they have obtained better grades and have acquired more knowledge and practical abilities using these methods.
Cooperative learning, Enhancing learning and the undergraduate experience, Learning and Teaching Methodologies.