Enhanced learning by introduction of cooperative learning and new examination forms

Jens Ejbye Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearch

Abstract

The course wastewater treatment at the Technical University of Denmark has
previously consisted of traditional lectures, exercises and a normal four hours exam. Only the exam had influence on the grade. However, the writing exam was not suitable for testing if the students had understood the basis principles in the wastewater treatment area and the students did not obtain the necessary engineering skills at the end of the course. To enhance the learning in the course, the teaching and the examination was changed over some years. The results of this will be presented and evaluated here.
Now, the get during the semester four cases which reflect real engineering
assignment concerning wastewater treatment and design of municipal wastewater
treatment plants. The students work in groups on structured learning task under the conditions that meets criteria for cooperative learning. One of these criteria is regular self assessment of the group work. I.e, student activating teaching method was implemented.
After two weeks of work with each case the group submits the first draft of their
report. This report is evaluated by another group, which writes a report of 2 pages with their comments. Based on the evaluation report the group receive, they will correct their report and submit the final version after one week. Implementing this procedure the students learn that there are other solutions to the problem they have been presented and see that making different assumption result in different results. This procedure has resulted in better reports from the groups and more important a more professional
understanding of solving engineer problems. Each student has in addition to submit a two page resume which summaries the most important points from the report. This forces the students to use time to understand the whole report the group has submitted and not only the part they have been working on. The students also used time/are forced to think about what are the central parts in the casework.
After each submission the students get a lecture which is planed on the basis of,
where troubles have been during the preparation of the case. In addition the students get a few other lectures that support the subjects they are working with during the case work. This means that the students themselves are responsible for finding the needed information they have to use to solve the case. This gives the students the feeling that they are responsible for they own learning and they have great influence of their own output of the course.
Each student gets after each case a grade based on the evaluation report the group had made, their final report and the assessment the other group members and themselves have made after the case. This gives the students in the group a positive interdependence and at the same time an individual accountability.
The final exam was a four hour writing exam. It consists of a case similar to the
ones they have worked with during the semester but in a smaller extent. All aids are allowed. The case to the exam is connected to the cases the students have worked with during the semester. With their answer to the exam case the students have to choose two of their own resumes that best covered the subjects worked with during the exam. The evaluation of the exam is based on the answer from the student and the two selected resumes (80/20). Using this procedure the student knows that is necessary to make good resumes during the semester and if they do so they will get credits at the exam. The reports contribute to 30% and the writing exam 70% of the final grade.
After the reconstruction of the course the students is much more motivated to be
active during the semester and the students experience a better relation between the evaluation form and work they are doing during the semester. In addition, the students are much more frequently present in the class room during the semester and use addition time to find information not present in the text book. The changes have also resulted in an increased work load for the students so it is more in agreement with that is expected from them. The workload is also distributed during the whole semester and the students do not
have to use much time for preparation for the final exam. The chosen methods for teaching and evaluation had different effect on different types of students. This accounts for a) Danish/foreign students, b) Bachelor/master students, c) traditional week/strong students. After the course the students typically state that they have learned a lot more and understood the central learning objectives much better than during courses with traditional teaching.
The students have today obtained many competences, they have not only read a
text book and learn the theory, but also learned to use this in solving concrete engineer problem. Using these teaching and evaluation methods have given the students higherlevel thinking skills. By introducing them to a more processional environment the students have not only achieved the competences within the wastewater area but also general engineering skills.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2005
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Event2nd CeTUSS/IEEE Nordic Education Chapter Workshop - Uppsala, Sweden
Duration: 27 Apr 200528 Apr 2005

Conference

Conference2nd CeTUSS/IEEE Nordic Education Chapter Workshop
CountrySweden
CityUppsala
Period27/04/200528/04/2005

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