Value of Adaptation of Methodologies Between Different Knowledge Areas: As Applied in the Context of Project-Based Learning

Value of Adaptation of Methodologies Between Different Knowledge Areas: As Applied in the Context of Project-Based Learning

Eduardo Manchado-Pérez (University of Zaragoza, Spain), Ignacio López-Forniés (University of Zaragoza, Spain) and Luis Berges-Muro (University of Zaragoza, Spain)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5279-6.ch010
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Project-based learning (PBL) is a powerful tool for teaching that helps students to get the best in terms of ratio effort/learning outcomes, especially in studies with a very practical basis, such as university degree studies in engineering. A way of getting even more out of this is by means of the adaptation of methodologies from different knowledge areas, because this allows the launch of innovative ways of working with certain guarantees of success from the very first moment, and at the same time to integrate skills from different fields within a shared context. Furthermore, it helps to put into practice some transversal competences, which are very useful for future professionals. The chapter also includes some case studies on the successful adaptation of different methodologies coming from different fields such as graphic design, biology, and social sciences in the context of a university engineering degree in industrial design and product development.
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Since the launch of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), Project Based Learning (PBL) methodologies have experienced a noticeable development in the context of university studies, increasingly replacing the traditional master class.

A more extended use of learning methodologies based on the principles of “learning by doing”, or “learning through experience”, together with an increase in scientific papers and publications dedicated to communicating the obtained results, (since Anzai & Simon, 1979; or Barron et al, 1998) is helping to expand the realization of different and innovative learning experiences. This not only contributes to the showcasing of these techniques, but at the same time expands their potential. Moreover, the results of the students in terms of the ratio effort/learning outcomes are steadily improving (Manchado et al, 2015). Consequently, the number of teachers who are enthusiastic about teaching innovation based on PBL is growing, and new experiences are proposed and developed every day.

Nevertheless, sometimes the degree of student success implied in the first-time application of a new methodology is affected by the need for adjustments, required to make some techniques fully develop their potential. Meanwhile, sometimes, only after several editions do these prove to be truly useful. For this reason, it seems convenient to show experiences where the development time has been reduced, and the speed of implementation increased, to sooner obtain the expected, good results.

These PBL experiences are particularly well exemplified when a series of teaching activities is organized via a modular coordination of selected subjects from different knowledge areas yet within the same degree. This modular approach can help the student to achieve a number of global learning objectives and competencies, through the acquisition of partial objectives for each subject in an overall context, allowing improved academic outcomes and reducing abandonment of subjects (Manchado & López, 2012).

By working with modules of subjects, the aim is to ensure learning outcomes, complementing other subjects without overlapping content, to make sense of all subjects within the same degree (regardless of their particular area of expertise), and to optimize the use of implied resources and efforts of the student. The achievement of these objectives is through a series of activities planned by the team of teachers involved in the module, in which the best practices are introduced. Some of these practices include continuous and group assessment, normally basing the learning experience on the development of a common project involving all areas of knowledge, (which at the same time prepares the student for the reality of professional work).

This strategy has been broadly developed in the context of the Engineering Degree in Industrial Design and Product Development, providing not only good results for students, but also other important achievements. One of these achievements has been the opening of new and active communication pathways between teachers from very different fields of expertise, which finally improve the overall framework and help to create goodwill among all members of the university community involved in the degree. Thus, one of the most noticeable benefits is a high level of interchange of knowledge between teachers of different areas, and the discussion of the potential interest of certain methodologies and theory principles when applied not only to a precise, expected learning environment, but also to different professional fields or disciplines (Manchado & López, 2012).

In this respect, it makes sense in this context to think more deeply about the general interest in - and potential of - adapting professional methodologies used as learning resources in some knowledge area, to some other areas where (regardless of their degree of theoretical affinity), some kind of analogies could be found. In fact, the identification of analogies between apparently unrelated elements is a powerful tool which has been used broadly across different fields for decades to generate creative and highly feasible solutions (Gordon, 1963).

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