Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Learning-Centered Instruction of Engineering Graphics for Freshman Engineering Students

Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Learning-Centered Instruction of Engineering Graphics for Freshman Engineering Students

Article excerpt


Teaching Engineering Graphics to freshman engineering students poses challenges to instructors as well as to students. While the instructors are confronted with a lack of material / text book that covers the broad scope of the subject matter, the students struggle to correlate newly developed skills to real-world engineering design problems because of a lack of documented industry design problems and case studies. Learning / teaching 'Engineering Graphics' through real world problems and case studies in a learner centered instructional paradigm can foster the required integrative thinking for tomorrow's engineers. This paper presents some learning-centered strategies supported by real-world problems and case studies implemented in a freshman 'Engineering Graphics' course. Real-world case studies are also implemented in a senior-level Computer-Aided Design (CAD) course. Some preliminary results are presented on the impact of such strategies on student learning, engagement, and performance.

Keywords: Learning-centered instruction, Problem-based learning, real-world problems, case studies


It is now well recognized that the role of colleges and higher-education institutions is to produce learning and not merely provide instruction (Barr & Tagg, 1995). Teacher-centered instruction imposes a moratorium upon students' vocational development by forcing them to assume a passive role as a student. The teaching - centered direct instruction: (a) emphasizes on content delivery, (b) involves curriculum based closed-ended problems, (c) uses structured summative assessment, and (d) helps in providing the foundational information on subject matter. Whereas learning-centered instruction: (a) emphasizes learning, (b) builds meaning for students though inquiry-oriented and socially situated environments, (c) involves problem and case study based open-ended scenarios, (d) uses formative assessment by collecting diagnostic clues on individual needs and feedback, and (e) provides opportunities to learn the subject matter beyond surface-level understanding. In a learning-centered instruction, faculty become designers of learning environments for students, facilitators of student active-learning, and modelers of expert thought processes (Barr & Tagg, 1995). Students construct knowledge through gathering and synthesizing information, and integrating it with the general skills of inquiry, communication, critical thinking, and problem solving. This process enables students to take ownership of their learning.

According to Combs (1976), successful implementation of a learning-centered instructional paradigm requires an effective learning environment in the classroom with the following characteristics : (a) the atmosphere should facilitate the exploration of meaning. The classroom must provide for involvement, interaction, and socialization, along with a business-like approach to getting the job done. (b) Learners must be given frequent opportunities to confront new information and experiences in the search for meaning, and (c) new meaning should be acquired through a process of personal discovery. Problem-based and case-study based learning / teaching strategies can readily create such environments.

According to Savoie and Hughes (1994), problem-based learning (PBL) is the type of classroom organization needed to support a constructivist approach to teaching and learning with the following actions for creating such a process : (a) identify a problem suitable for the students, (b) connect the problem with the context of the students' world so that it presents authentic opportunities, and (c) give students responsibility for defining their learning experience and planning to solve the problem. PBL begins with the assumption that learning is an active, integrated, and constructive process influenced by social and contextual factors (Barrows, 1996; Gijselaers, 1996). PBL is characterized by a student-centered approach, with teachers as "facilitators rather than disseminators," and open-ended problems that "serve as the initial stimulus and framework for learning" (Wilkerson & Gijselaers, 1996). …

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