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Thursday, June 23 • 15:00 - 16:00
CON08.13b - Use of Learning Communities in Fourth Year Elective STEM Courses

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University of Waterloo engineering is a prescribed education, with six co-op work terms. However, students develop interests that they are eager to pursue, the majority of which are not defined as part of the curriculum, which is designed for professional accreditation. Opportunities to pursue specialized knowledge are limited. Student autonomy was shown to improve learning (Guiffrida, Lynch, Wall, & Abel, 2013). In a professional program, this is often achieved through problem-based learning (Bower, Mays, & Miller, 2004). A greater challenge is to empower students and give them choice over their learning (Douglass & Morris, 2014).

Two elective learning community-based (Marcé-Nogué, et al., 2012) courses were offered, with the goal of having students select the topics for the community. The first was offered in response to students’ demand to learn about real world manufacturing design topics and was structured so that they worked in teams to learn about their self-selected topics and then teach them to their peers with the instructor’s guidance. Another course was structured in a more traditional manner with a more diverse group of students where the community was limited to the last month, giving students autonomy to choose which course areas to investigate in depth after they had been introduced to the standard approaches.

The presentation will focus on how the communities were formed, how teams within the community were assessed, lecture time allocation, and compare student opinions and feedback. Comparing the two offerings, strategies for success and challenges are highlighted, including why the first course offering was more successful in terms of student participation and achievement. This will be followed by group discussion on anticipated pros and cons of using this method. By the end of this session participants will be able to decide whether they would like to investigate this approach for their own teaching.


Carol Hulls

Dr. Carol Hulls, P.Eng. is a Continuing Lecturer in the Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering Department at the University of Waterloo. She teaches courses in programming, digital logic, and sensors. She enjoys experimenting with teaching practices and technology.

Additional Authors

Samar Mohamed

Dr. Samar Mohamed is the Center for Teaching Excellence liaison at the Faculty of Engineering. Part of her role is to work closely with engineering instructors on designing pedagogically sound teaching and learning activities that align with their intended learning outcomes and assessment... Read More →

Thursday June 23, 2016 15:00 - 16:00 EDT
UCC 315 (Council Chambers)

Attendees (3)