|M.Sc Student||Catz Beto|
|Subject||Characteristics of Problem Based Learning in an Electronics|
Laboratory Course: A Case Study
|Department||Department of Education in Science and Technology||Supervisor||Dr. Aharon Gero|
|Full Thesis text - in Hebrew|
Research indicates a gap between the skills of engineering graduates and those needed in the industry. The required skills include, among others, the ability to identify, formulate and solve engineering problems and the ability to function on teams and communicate effectively. Problem based learning (PBL) is a learner-centered pedagogy that often develops the above skills, and an inquiry based laboratory might be an appropriate platform for its implementation.
The study described in this dissertation focused on PBL implementation in an inquiry based electronics laboratory offered at a leading Israeli college. This course is designed for junior electrical engineering students and is the first course where students are exposed to PBL and experience how engineers work. The course covers three topics: digital systems, analog electronics, and digital electronics. During the course, the students engaged in problem solving in teams of two-four students supervised by an experienced instructor.
The study characterized students' attitudes toward the course and examined, based on self-determination theory, whether a change in the students' academic motivation has occurred as a result of the course. Fourteen electrical engineering students in their fifth semester took part in the study, which utilized quantitative instruments alongside qualitative ones.
The study identifies cognitive and affective components in students' attitudes toward the course. In the cognitive aspect, most of the students believe that the course is beneficial as they are exposed to the engineer's work in the industry and experience teamwork. However, the students find some challenges associated with the course as well. About a half of the students find it difficult to adjust to independent learning and to deal with complex problems to which they are not accustomed. Additionally, some students find it difficult to effectively work as a team and point out that the course requires them to dedicate a great amount of effort. In the affective domain, most of the students feel frustrated as a result of failure to cope with the problems given to them.
The study found a decrease (small effect) in the students' relative autonomy index, which had been caused mainly by a decrease in their intrinsic motivation and an increase in their external regulation. This change could be explained by the findings, according to which, the students' need for competence was not met during the course. Possible causes for this lack of fulfillment are the difficulties experienced by most students to adjust to independent learning and to cope with the complexity of the problems studied on the course.