Multidisciplinary efforts addressing problem-based learning in an engineering graduate course

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Abstract

Lowland Flooding and Management is not a distinct discipline in itself, but rather involves the understanding of spatial planning, vulnerability, risk, and resilience and adaptation to climate change. This study documented a 17-week multidisciplinary course taught in a graduate program in a university in Taiwan adopting problem-based learning (PBL). This course emphasized systemic understanding that should underlie lowland flooding management and sought to address issues from a holistic and multidisciplinary approach, rather than traditional classroom-based structure-oriented strategies. As the course balanced advanced reading, lectures, fieldwork, and exercises, students applied their practical background knowledge, based on international and multidisciplinary experiences, with an understanding of relevant and domain-specific theory and tools. In terms of international and multidisciplinary experiences, students were under the guidance and received the support of professionals from multiple fields, including engineering, education, and design and from a multitude of backgrounds, including academia, industry, and government. In terms of domain-specific theory and tools, the projects were based on a graduate level lowland flooding course which included students from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Based on students' active learning processes and experience sharing, feasible strategies for the sustainable management of lowland areas were developed through two distinct projects addressing real-world problems: an urban underpass flooding issue and the rejuvenation of a failed community floating garden project. Different instructional approaches to PBL were adopted for these two projects, evaluating the role of collaboration and competition in problem-solving tasks. Thus, while the Underpass Flooding project involved students working separately and competitively in groups on solutions to the same problem (emphasizing the planning stage, with evaluation of group performance), the Floating Garden project involved a collaborative model in which different groups were assigned interdependent roles in accomplishing an authentic implementation of hydraulic engineering to a project which required the consideration of budget and time constraints. This study adopted a single-sample experimental design, utilizing research instruments and data analysis of pre-tests, mid-tests, and post-tests for the dependent variables of learning motivation, professional skills, creative thinking, and problem solving abilities which yielded promising results in the context of this exploratory study. Furthermore, participants' final reports, which proposed solutions to the real-world issues, were adopted and implemented in certain policy making decisions by the city government. The results suggest that a multidisciplinary PBL, adopting a real-life problem and embracing the social context, 1-3 was effective in providing the type of nurturing environment for enhancing students' background knowledge and motivation, and for engaging students in deeper thinking, such as creative thinking, problem solving and critical thinking.4 While the generalizability of the results are limited by the lack of comparison group, the findings of the study can provide a useful reference point for problem-based learning projects in other engineering domains.

Original languageEnglish
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
Volume2017-June
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jun 24
Event124th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Columbus, United States
Duration: 2017 Jun 252017 Jun 28

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)

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