Project/Problem Based Learning in the Field of Materials, Food, and Chemical Engineering at Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

Project/Problem Based Learning in the Field of Materials, Food, and Chemical Engineering at Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

Carola Fortelius (Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Helsinki, Finland) and Marja-Leena Akerman (Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Helsinki, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/IJQAETE.2015100103
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Abstract

Project/problem based learning (PPBL) has been applied at the department of Biotechnology and Chemical Engineering, Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, for a few years now. The authors' experiences from the PPBL with their first year Bachelor students are discussed in this paper. The problem based learning concept in connection with practical solutions for organizing the courses are contemplated critically. The authors found, that the new way to pursue studies in material, biotechnical and chemical engineering has meant a significant change for both students and educators. A positive response from the students could be seen in the form of augmentation of motivation and activity. Team skills have improved, as well as independent study capacity. Cooperative teaching and being more of a facilitator than a traditional instructor, also challenges the role conceptions for the educators.
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Structure Of The Problem Based Learning Projects

The chosen approach for the projects is closer to the engineering method than the scientific method seen in Figure 1 (Science Buddies, 2015). Especially at the third and fourth steps, the requirement specifications and brainstorming steps the differences were emphasized.

Figure 1.

Comparision of the scientific and engineering approach for problem solving (Science Buddies, 2015)

During the first year of studies the students perform three different projects. The aim of the first introductory project during the second autumn period is to get familiar with the PBL process, how to organize a project, roles and group dynamics training. The professional substance content plays a minor role. The two projects during spring semester are more focused on substance learning and the subject for these projects are to get familiar with industrial processes of the field. Each group performs one project based on a food technology or a biotechnology process, the other based on a chemical engineering or a surface treatment process. The study process follows a cyclic Problem Based Learning approach (Figure 2).

Figure 2.

The cyclic learning process in PPBL (Portimojarvi, 2006)

One cycle takes ca six weeks and consists of the following steps:

  • First tutorial

    • 1.

      Explore the given issues and choose one

    • 2.

      Brainstorming around the issue

    • 3.

      Discussion about ´What do we know, what more do we need to know?

Dividing of learning assignments to be done before next tutorial

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