Cooperative Learning Instructional Activities in a Capstone Design Course

By Pimmel, Russ | Journal of Engineering Education, July 2001 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Cooperative Learning Instructional Activities in a Capstone Design Course


Pimmel, Russ, Journal of Engineering Education


ABSTRACT

In developing our capstone design course, we decided to include instruction in design methodology, project management, engineering communications, and professional ethics, along with a comprehensive design project. As this course evolved over a number ofyears, we found that active and cooperative learning was critical for effective instruction in these topics and we developed a series of instructional activities using this methodology. These activities consisted of short presentations (mini-lectures) with interspersed team exercises. We describe our course, these instructional activities, and some evaluation data showing that our students found them effective and important. Our experiences convinced us that the cooperative learning approach both enhanced our students' understanding of these topics and encouraged them to incorporate the associated skills into their working skill set. Including team exercises that dealt with various steps in the design process provided a "jump-start" on these unfamiliar activities in a structured, short duration exercise environment in class. Listening to presentations by other teams and reviewing and discussing another team's results as a part of the team exercises provided an opportunity to see and think about different formulations of the problem they just considered.

I. INTRODUCTION

In the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Alabama, we, like virtually all other engineering programs, require a capstone course involving a major design project. In this course we require teams (typically three or four students) to specify, design, implement in some fashion, and validate a design project. To help our students through the design process, we provide instruction in design methodology, project management, and engineering communication. To help complete their professional development, we also include a section on engineering ethics. In other words, we teach the "implicit curriculum" as Waltz and Barrett' called the things we expect our students to learn but never teach in any course.

Initially, when we developed the course, we created a lecture or two on each of the "implicit curriculum" topics that we presented using a standard lecture format and classroom setting. We quickly realized that these lectures were ineffective because our students did not remain attentive for the full fifty-minute lecture and, perhaps more importantly, because they did not internalize the associated skills, that is make them a part of their personal skill set. To deal with these two shortcomings, we began moving toward more student involvement in the classroom. This active/cooperative learning approach eventually evolved into a series of instructional activities consisting of short presentations (mini-lectures) interspersed with team exercises forcing the students to interpret or apply the ideas as we talked about them. In this paper, we describe our course design, the use of cooperative learning techniques, and the series of instructional activities making up this course. Also, we present some evaluation data and the conclusions that we have drawn from our experiences.

II. COURSE DESIGN

When we established our capstone course, we decided that we wanted a one-semester course with a major design experience and some instruction in design methodology and professional skills-- topics included in several other capstone courses.2-4 We wanted many faculty members involved and we wanted the students working on design problems that interested them and the faculty member supervising the work We wanted the design projects to build on advanced knowledge, such as that taught in a senior-level elective course. Finally, we wanted to offer the students several options so that they could complete their design experience in their area of specialization.

To meet our goals, we decided to offer several sections of the course every semester with each section requiring a different one of the senior-level lecture-lab-course combinations taught in the previous semester as prerequisites.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Cooperative Learning Instructional Activities in a Capstone Design Course
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?