Project-Based Learning as the Vehicle for Social Responsibility and Social Justice
Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a pedagogy that centers learning around projects that involve students in design, problem solving, decision making, and other investigative activities. Students engaged in PBL typically work autonomously over extended periods of time to create realistic products or presentations . PBL allows students to serve specific groups of people in our society, while enriching students’ learning, retention and commitment by enhancing their interest, motivation and ability to see the relevance of classroom activities to solving real world problems [2-5]. PBL is also an excellent vehicle to make visible the intertwined social and technical dimensions of engineering. This allows for deep, authentic learning of important themes such as social justice (SJ) and social responsibility (SR), which otherwise currently exist primarily on the fringes of mainstream engineering curriculum. Thus, four faculty members in both the Petroleum Engineering (PE) Department and the Division of Engineering, Design, and Society (EDS) at the same engineering university used PBL to teach students to recognize, value, and begin applying SJ and SR in courses that focus on extractive industries, sustainable community development, and assistive technologies.
This work-in-progress paper will provide a brief overview of PBL – the main principles, opportunities, hurdles, requirements, and a framework of best practices. Then, it will make an argument for using PBL as a vehicle for teaching SR and SJ, as compared to other methods of teaching. Next, concrete examples of how four faculty members have used PBL to deepen students’ understanding of SJ and SR will be presented. As these courses are being completed throughout the 2017/2018 academic year, only limited analysis as to their efficacy in teaching SJ and SR will be completed, and experiences teaching these courses compared. Finally, the paper will provide suggestions and a set of preliminary best practices for faculty who would like to bring SJ- and SR-themed PBL into their own courses.
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