Creating a supportive PBL environment in two engineering courses at Central Queensland University
Project Based Learning (PBL) is challenging existing conceptions of good teaching in engineering education. When developing and reviewing the first year Engineering Skills course and the second year Fluid Mechanics course at Central Queensland University strategies were implemented to improve student engagement in the learning process. The learning outcomes for both the courses include many of the professional skills that are now recognized as being essential in the engineering workplace. These skills are introduced in the context of engineering projects rather than in separate ‘add-on’ modules. Self-directed learning and reflection which are fundamental aspects of PBL assist the development of important lifelong learning skills. The learning outcomes are aimed at building upon the various experiences which students bring with them. By promoting social and academic engagement within the project teams and between students and staff, the PBL paradigm facilitates the development of a learning community and therefore further improves the quality of the learning. The development of a learning community has been shown to be an important predictor of the development of student learning outcomes both in generic attributes such as communication, problem solving and ethical awareness as well as discipline-specific skills.PBL encourages student initiative, independence, collaboration and responsibility for learning through project work resulting in a productive pedagogy in the Engineering Skills and Fluid Mechanics courses. This paper will discuss the strategies employed in these two courses and how student learning is enhanced when the student participates responsibly in the learning process.