Fundamental engineering skills include project management, teamwork, communication, and leadership. In the traditional classroom, opportunities for developing these skills are scarce. Moreover, sometimes when students are exposed to activities for skill development, they may learn the concept in a superficial way. We present a methodology used to train a subset of students from a program for Low Income Academically Talented Students (LIATS) to promote the development of teamwork, planning, leadership, and communication skills. This methodology is based on a cognitive apprentice framework where coaching was used to combine Peer Led Team Learning Model (PLTL), Cooperative Learning, and Reflection.
LIATS from diverse engineering disciplines were volunteered to participate as PLTL peer leaders and went through a process of training on the principles and procedures of PLTL and cooperative learning. The subject matter to be covered in PLTL sessions were resume building and the creation of e-portfolios. All participating students in the project were divided among PLTL leaders, and two PLTL sessions were conducted. In both instances leaders met to prepare the activities, incorporated active learning tasks to follow a cooperative learning model in the classroom, delivered the session, and, after the session, proceeded with a reflection on what worked well and what did not work as expected.
Grounded theory was used to identify the emerging theories that explain the learning process of leaders. The first step was to analyze the narratives of the reflection of leaders. Nine out of ten leaders participated in the reflection process. For the first session, difficulties for accommodating to each other’s work styles emerged as a common theme. Presentation skills were improved, communication improved, and leaders expressed that they learned about teamwork and how to mentor others. They were not effective in convening the students; therefore, few students attended sessions. Difficulties in planning and finding available rooms were commonly found among the leaders. For the second session, leaders were more comfortable with each other, teamwork improved, group dynamics improved, and more students participated. Leaders expressed that sessions were more successful, and the exchange of ideas occurred in their respective trainings. Engagement of students in the sessions emerged as a common topic. They self-evaluated as having improvements in mentoring, planning, and communication skills. This paper reports on the design of the methodology, the reflection of students, and the emerging theories. A discussion on pros and cons of this implementation follows.
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