This Complete Evidence-based Practice paper is focused on the development and implementation of active learning pedagogy applied within an introductory course in engineering fundamentals at the J. B. Speed School of Engineering (SSoE) at the University of Louisville (UofL). The course, titled Engineering Methods, Tools, and Practice II (ENGR 111), is the second component of a two-course sequence and is primarily focused on application and integration of fundamental engineering skills introduced and practiced in the first component of the sequence (ENGR 110). Fundamental skills integrated within ENGR 111 include 3D printing, basic research fundamentals, circuitry, communication, critical thinking, design, engineering ethics, hand tool usage, problem solving, programming, project management, teamwork, and technical writing. The course is required for all first-year SSoE students (no less than 450 per year) and is housed within and delivered via a 15,000 ft2 makerspace. The ENGR 110/111 sequence is relatively new, resultant from the desire to restructure the previous iteration of the institution’s introductory engineering course. A key motivational factor in the desire to restructure included aspiration(s) to conform to modern research in engineering education methodologies, especially the implementation of active learning.
Active learning has been defined as “any instructional method that engages students in the learning process”. Generally, active learning refers to activities that are introduced into the classroom, with the core elements of student activity and engagement in the learning process. In summary, active learning necessitates students to do meaningful learning activities in conjunction with thinking about what they are doing and why.
Literature suggest a main reason that students leave engineering is the lack of engineering related experiences in the first year. Accordingly, ENGR 111 was developed with this in mind; creating curricular experiences that tie directly into the engineering experience. Inclusion of active learning pedagogy in ENGR 111 further enhances these efforts.
ENGR 111 employs various forms of active learning, implementing no less than five different types of recognized active learning within the course structure, including collaborative, cooperative, problem-based, project-based, and discovery-based learning. Collaborative learning is present throughout due to the team-based nature of the course. One example of cooperative learning present in ENGR 111 is periodic peer evaluations amongst team members with respect to teamwork effectiveness. The ENGR 111 Cornerstone project is an example of project-based learning, where students work toward completion of a fully realized project. Finally, discovery-based learning is employed throughout ENGR 111 course lesson plans.
In the Spring 2019 iteration of ENGR 111, students were surveyed a ten-point Likert scale on their intentions to continue pursuing an engineering major. Students were then instructed to answer a follow-up question that asked the degree of impact their ENGR 111 experience had on their answer to the previous question. Out of the 440 total students surveyed, over 80% expressed high levels (i.e. Likert values of 8-10) of intent to continue pursuit of engineering. For each of these respective identified high levels, no less than 72% stated that ENGR 111 had at least somewhat of an impact on these intentions.
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