(309c) Course Design Vs. Student Experience: To What Extent Do We Agree on What Happens in Class?

Vigeant, M. - Presenter, Bucknell University
Prince, M., Bucknell University
Nottis, K., Bucknell University
Jablonski, E., Bucknell University
Student-centered instructional practices like active, collaborative, and problem-based learning have shown great promise in improving student cognitive and affective outcomes in engineering courses. We hypothesized, based on self-determination theory, that seven course attributes that support active learning would also cultivate student’s motivation in class and curiosity about the course subject: 1) Relatively small class size for 2) elective courses with 3) an interdisciplinary student composition, where 4) students work on “real” problems through 5) a flexible design process with many paths and solutions and 6) are encouraged to apply broad perspectives (ethics, sustainability, economics…) to ultimately create a 7) physical artefact or prototype. Our work demonstrated that yes, these attributes are associated more strongly with courses with high student intrinsic motivation and curiosity than with courses lacking these elements.

We also noticed an intriguing discrepancy in the data; when students were asked to describe their courses, students in the same course didn’t agree on the presence of these elements. Some students described the course as including real problems, while others in the same course did not, even though the instructor’s intent was to include real problems in the course. We have redesigned our post-course survey to more closely examine this discrepancy and explore its roots and implications. Students and faculty in nine courses in the 2016-17 academic year were asked about their course experiences relating to the seven factors listed above. This presentation describes work-in-progress, as the survey is anticipated to continue into the 2017-18 academic year.