Project-Based Learning (PBL) in a Higher Education Project: Introduction of an Accelerated PBL (A-PBL) Model

Project-Based Learning (PBL) in a Higher Education Project: Introduction of an Accelerated PBL (A-PBL) Model

Victor S. Sohmen (Drexel University, Philidelphia, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 33
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1306-4.ch005


A Senior Design course in an urban Engineering Technology (ET) program was examined to propose an Accelerated Project-Based Learning (A-PBL) model, guided by three research questions: (1) What is the extent to which Self-directed Learning (SDL) skills were applied by final-year ET students using PBL, as determined quantitatively through the Self-directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS-A®)?; (2) How are Self-directed Learning (SDL) skills, Project Management (PM) efficiencies, and Change Leadership (CL) effectiveness applied in implementing ET capstone projects?; and, (3) What are the best practices to accelerate PBL by employing SDL skills, PM efficiencies, and CL effectiveness? This mixed-methodology research resulted in an accelerated PBL model geared to significant time, cost, and quality efficiencies in rapidly evolving, technological environments for optimal outcomes in 21st century higher education. The study concluded that this A-PBL model could also minimize the employment gap, fuel self-motivation, enable skill-building, and instill a deep commitment to lifelong learning.
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Higher education in the 21st century is impelled by competitive global forces that require pedagogies, technologies, structures, and research to become truly innovative for dynamic progress. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), innovation and technological changes are recognized as powerful drivers of economic growth (ILO, 2019). Consequently, technology diffusion is also transforming higher education at an accelerating rate (Dennison, 2013). Educators at all levels are being called upon to meet this challenge, and to equip students with multiple skills to enable them to adapt to these irreversible changes (Lane, 2007; Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007; Parr, 2015). Indeed, change is a constant that happens fast in the world of work today.

Driven by innovation and rapid developments in technology, keeping up with this pace of change is indeed a continuing challenge for learning institutions (ILO, 2019; Miller, Martineau, & Clark, 2000). Evidently, technological innovation as applied to 21st century higher education needs to be harnessed and leveraged efficiently and effectively (Gonçalves & Pedro, 2012; Kelley, 2005). For this, effective change leadership (CL) has become the source, catalyst, and driver of change, energized by organization-wide creativity and innovation (Abgor, 2008; Fullan, 2011). CL thus enables the diffusion of innovation (DOI) to result in changes in the educational ecosystem—despite possible resistance to change that could be manifest in absenteeism, non-cooperation, and even insubordination (Fullan, 2011).

While most countries have seen an unprecedented expansion of their educational competencies and skill bases over the past decades, there seems to be a persistent gap between the kind of knowledge and skills that are most in demand in the workplace, and those that training systems continue to provide (ILO, 2019). Therefore, in a rapidly evolving educational ecosystem (Hagan, 2019) it is important to ensure that education and training focus on closing this employability gap between precise workplace needs, and the content, quality, and validity of educational programs geared for the workplace.

With innovative technology as a key economic driver to close the prevalent skills and employment gaps in the economy, it is necessary to streamline and focus the process of technology diffusion in higher education (Dennison, 2013; Hall & Elliott, 2003). In this context, the triple constraints of time, cost, and quality that comprise the core parameters of project management can be gainfully applied for improved processes and positive results (Sohmen, 2007; Turner & Müller, 2005). This is because project management (PM) has inherent efficiencies: a rigorously planned approach; goal-orientation; resource optimization; time compression; and, phase-by-phase progress toward economical execution and successful realization of project goals. PM could therefore be a critical contributor to optimizing project-based learning (PBL) efficiencies.

An accelerated model of Project-based Learning (A-PBL) is introduced in this study that is applicable to intensive higher education programs with the express purpose of combatting the shortfalls in skill levels, and thus promote employability. It is proposed that Change Leadership (CL), Project Management (PM), and Self-directed Learning (SDL) be incorporated into this model to derive efficiencies in hands-on learning, self-motivation, adoption of change, and acceleration.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Change Leadership (CL): Describes leadership that concerns driving forces, vision, and processes that fuel change and transformation in an organization ( Kotter, 1995 )

Capstone Project: A multifaceted, investigative project that culminates in a final product and presentation, typically during the final year of an academic program

Innovative Technology: New technology that can be incremental, radical, or disruptive

Self-Directed Learning (SDL): Learning characterized by personal autonomy, management of self-learning, and, viewing problems as challenges; a self-disciplined approach with a high degree of curiosity, self-confidence, and diagnosis; and, a strong desire to learn, evaluate the learning, and make necessary changes ( Candy, 1991 ; Guglielmino, 1978 ; Knowles, 1975 )

Project-Based Learning (PBL): Refers to any programmatic or instructional approach utilizing multifaceted projects as a central organizing strategy for educating students; an inquiry-based teaching method in which students execute a project to investigate a real-life, complex problem (Glossary of Educational Reform, 2019 AU21: The in-text citation "Glossary of Educational Reform, 2019" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. )

Ecosystem: Composed of several stakeholders including graduate students, undergraduates, faculty, staff, institutions, scientific societies, and funders, each with a role to play ( Hagan, 2019 )

Diffusion of Innovation (DOI): Occurs when an innovative product spreads through an environment in successive, overlapping waves (Business Dictionary, 2014 AU20: The in-text citation "Business Dictionary, 2014" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. )

Engineering Technology: Emphasizes the application of existing scientific and engineering skills and techniques to real-life issues and problems

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