• Decision-based Learning in Engineering Contexts

      Nelson Todd G.; Nelson Todd G.
      Commonly higher education courses are structured to engage students to think critically about topics (conceptual knowledge) and to provide students with the ability to carry out a series of steps to produce a desired outcome (procedural knowledge). Obtaining conditional or functional knowledge1, that is the knowledge to know under what conditions to use one’s conceptual and procedural knowledge is generally left to be implicitly gained throughout the course. Decision-Based Learning (DBL)2 is a recent pedagogy that is designed to strengthen a student’s conditional knowledge as material is presented in the context of a decision-making model. This model mimics the questions that an expert has taught him or herself to ask to conditionalize his or hers conceptual and procedural knowledge. The DBL pedagogy was implemented for a single unit in a senior-level mechanical-engineering course to assess its effectiveness, particularly in an engineering context, and to inform whether a possible more-expansive implementation of DBL should be undertaken for the course. A decision-making model for the selection and utilization of static-failure theories, which are used to quantify and predict when failure will occur in a mechanical component, was created and presented to the students using software specially created for this type of pedagogy3. The decision-making model was presented to the students using a ‘just enough, just-in-time’ approach where relevant content was presented to the students to assist them in making decisions when taking examples through the decision-making model. A collection of problems was created for students to work through which provided practice in each branch of the model. Because this was an informal study to assess the potential of using a DBL approach in an engineering course, reflections based on the teaching experiences, student comments, and their behavior rather than data are discussed. The overall engagement of the students as the DBL model was presented and used was favorable. While part of this may have been due novelty, the DBL approach has the benefit of allowing both instructor led-examples and opportunities for individual student self-study, leading towards the possibility of high student engagement as both approaches are utilized. All students completed the collection of problems given to them with a large majority obtaining correct answers. In conclusion, because of the success of the technique and positive feedback from students a further a more comprehensive implementation of DBL in an engineering course is being planned for the following year. Biggs, J. B. (2011). “Teaching for quality learning at university: What the student does,” McGraw-Hill Education (UK) K. Plummer, R. Swan, N. Lush, “Introduction to Decision Based Learning”, International Technology, Education, and Development Conference (INTED 2017) Proceedings, pp. 2629-2638 (2017). Decision-Based Learning [computer software]. (2018) Conate Incorporated, Retrieved from decisionbasedlearning.com