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An international collaboration to promote inquiry‐based learning in undergraduate engineering classrooms

D'Arcy C. Randall (The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA)
Christy Moore (The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA)
Isabel S. Carvalho (ISEL, Lisbon, Portugal and IDMEC/FEUP, Porto, Portugal)

Campus-Wide Information Systems

ISSN: 1065-0741

Article publication date: 24 August 2012

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe specific techniques of “inquiry‐based learning” employed by three instructors in Engineering schools, one in Europe and two in the USA.

Design/methodology/approach

Theorists such as Bransford et al. argue that twenty‐first century educators need to teach students to do more than simply remember and repeat information. Engineering educators Prince and Felder critique traditional methods of teaching in which instructors focus on mathematics and theory, but fail to convey practical applications of that knowledge. They advocate moving students to a higher level of learning – past the stage of memorizing and reciting data – to more sophisticated methods of analysis, synthesis, and application of knowledge. To enact such transformations, Prince and Felder recommend “inductive teaching methods,” including “inquiry‐based learning,” in which students learn through engaging with challenges and a series of questions. The paper provides examples of inquiry‐based learning activities from each of the authors. The paper then discusses the cross‐pollination of ideas and describes how the authors have shared inquiry‐based teaching strategies and collaborated to develop new and relevant assignments and approaches to teaching.

Findings

The willingness of learners to discuss a range of pedagogical topics, from specific practices to shared experiences and readings, led to an exchange of ideas, and also to deeper reflections on current practices. The cross‐pollination of assignments and techniques resulted in well‐structured, stimulating, and relevant research projects that engage engineering students from Texas to Portugal, and from communication to technical classes.

Research limitations/implications

The use of inquiry‐based learning activities and the sharing of resources across continents aimed at improving learning and teaching requires expanding upon and further development.

Originality/value

The paper demonstrates the use of cross‐pollination of ideas, development of assignments and improved approaches to teaching.

Keywords

Citation

Randall, D.C., Moore, C. and Carvalho, I.S. (2012), "An international collaboration to promote inquiry‐based learning in undergraduate engineering classrooms", Campus-Wide Information Systems, Vol. 29 No. 4, pp. 259-271. https://doi.org/10.1108/10650741211253859

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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