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Wednesday, June 18 • 11:00am - 12:30pm
PSD.15 – A Flipped Undergraduate Engineering Laboratory

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Introductory undergraduate engineering classes in programming and problem solving tend to suffer from seemingly insolvably high failure rates.  Few would dispute the need for problem-based or active learning for these courses.  Like many other universities, in past years, lectures have incorporated peer instruction, clickers, flipped classes, early feedback interventions, hybridized online course delivery, the use of different “easier” programming languages, as well as re-organizing and even, regrettably ,removing content.  Yet, little thought has been given to the laboratory, strange in a faculty of engineering where there are 1.5 hours of labs for each hour of lecture, a balance reflecting the presumed importance of applied practice in engineering education.

In the past fall semester, a new holistic perspective was taken, prompting a change in the lab environment, its space and its use of instructors and teaching assistants (TAs).  Past lab practices had students work in rows of computers, working individually on prescribed programming exercises, with TAs wandering about, answering questions by random students whenever asked. The new vision was to embrace the literature on the value of collaborative and peer learning, with their positive impacts on community, engagement, skill development, and ultimately on content mastery; nicely, the vision coincided with the current direction of Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) where teamwork and lifelong learning have been defined as two of twelve graduate attributes of an engineering student. Use of small groups, seating arrangements, dedicated TAs, pre-and-post meetings and even rolling whiteboards were used to promote relationships between students.  Despite the large class size, the intent was to create a community for each student, from which – with direction, training and facilitation by the TAs – would re-direct the learning to peers. The instructors – and even the TAs – were removed as the foci of learning, as the content experts and providers. 

This session will include discussion about the re-organization of the labs.  It will also address students’ perspectives on the new labs by highlighting results of a student survey derived from established surveys on classroom experiences and engagement. Lastly, personal reflections on the venture and a dialogue concerning the rationale and evaluation of the work will ensue.


Wednesday June 18, 2014 11:00am - 12:30pm
A241/A242 Duncan McArthur Hall

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