The approach of active learning and human centered design has been a pedagogical goal for our school to incorporate into the curricula in order to prepare students to address the ever changing and complex environmental challenges that affect society. Traditional classroom arrangements of lecture based learning do not adequately prepare students for the application of knowledge in various scenarios outside of the classroom. Problem based learning requires a new teaching and learning model where students respond to concepts in workshops to apply them in a laboratory or fabrication setting to build and test hypotheses. The classroom becomes collaborative as our faculty and staff respond to the varying needs of the individual students through the design process as well as supporting team based project work.
While we initially created pilots with small groups of college students to test and experiment new additions to the curriculum, the demand increased which made it difficult to adequately evaluate the small programs. Currently, in order to evaluate and assess new experiments and projects, we use summer programs with a different student body, a mix of local and international students, to develop learning initiatives prior to implementation into the semester. This paper will cover two different programs, one pre-collegiate and one international, undergraduate collaborative exchange program, as case studies for developing curricula. The former program focuses on international water engineering and resource management, and the latter is centered on developing on site soil testing devices for small scale Peruvian farmers. While one uses multiple iterations of the design thinking cycle for students to test and iterate, the other uses a different approach with the first part of the schedule focused on concept-based workshops and the second half establishing one longer design thinking cycle.
This paper will address our methodology of addressing factors influencing the success of the two programs, including:
Evaluating and selecting students from different backgrounds and in program team formation
Choice of piloted topics to support our official college curriculum and learning outcomes
Mechanisms of curricular development, including program workshops and institutional collaborations between faculty, staff, and labs
Mechanics of piloting new activities and engaging with the participating students
Assessing of learning outcome (before, during, and after program completion)
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