A Problem-Based Learning Technique to Improve Student Engagement in Multidisciplinary Groups in Higher Education

A Problem-Based Learning Technique to Improve Student Engagement in Multidisciplinary Groups in Higher Education

Michael Opoku Agyeman (University of Northampton, UK), Haiping Cui (University of Glasgow, UK) and Shirley Bennett (University of Northampton, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2708-5.ch023
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Recently, there has been a rise in the integration of curriculum from different disciplines in higher education (HE) in response to the multidisciplinary nature of the skillset required by the modern job market. In cases where the curriculum is delivered to students from the same discipline, it is intuitive for students to easily identify with its relevance. However, the aforementioned will not be as obvious in situations where a curriculum is taken by multidisciplinary groups of students. Consequently, there is a risk of student disengagement. This chapter evaluates how to enhance student engagement in modules thought to multidisciplinary groups in HE. The chapter presents an action research which uses mixed methods of qualitative and quantitative research to improve student engagement in a real-world module taken by Computing, Electrical & Electronics Eng., and Mechatronics Eng. students at University of Northampton. By using a problem-based learning strategy as an intervention, student engagement has been significantly improved with evidences in grade distribution and satisfaction.
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Background- Possible Cause

Student Expectation

Some students may not believe that they have the required background for the module. Though students are aware that no prerequisite is assumed, they do not seem to identify with this. Perhaps, emphasizing on this throughout the teaching weeks will help.

The belief that a student does not have the right background, creates a sense that students in other disciplines have been thought some modules that makes them better skilled for the module. Hence, some students believe that other students are more skilled in some aspect. Engineering students think computing students are better at programming, while computing students think engineering students are better at building circuits (McCracken et al., 2001; Parnas, 1990; Trowler & Trowler, 2010). However, though the particular specialisms of the varied disciplines create some advantages, the module is designed and delivered to compensate possible issues that may be associated as both groups are exposed to the fundamentals during the initial weeks of the module. This assumption from the students seems to be in the way of their learning. Due to the disconnect of the significance of the module and discipline/department in which it is delivered, some students do not see the direct relevance to their programme of study and career. Most Computing and Engineering dissertation in level 6 depend on Microcontrollers (the core of CSY2XXX). However, in level 5, students do not seem to see the relevance to their individual programme of study. Managing expectations by showing students relevant job advertisements and salary ranges from their respective disciplines seems to help.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Student Engagement: The degree with which students get actively involved in their learning process.

Multidisciplinary: A combination of different academic disciplines.

Team: A group of individuals working together towards achieving a goal.

Active Learning: A form of learning which focusses on involving the students in the learning process. Thus, active learning emphasizes on how students participate in their learning.

Virtual Learning Environment: An online-based platform for supporting students learning through a wide range of services such as delivering learning materials, providing collaboration opportunities (for students and staff), providing feedback and feedforward, etc.

Problem-Based Learning: An active learning method where students learn through solving (practical) problems found in trigger materials.

Student Group: An organization of students who share a common interest (e.g. a project).

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