Active learning is “generally defined as any instructional method that engages students in the learning process. In short, active learning requires students to do meaningful learning activities and think about what they are doing” (Prince, Journal Engineering Education, 93:223-231, 2004).
In our program, we practice active learning through assignments that are either first year engineering design (open-ended design projects during freshman year), collaborative learning (student groups working towards a common goal), problem-based learning (student groups each solving an assigned problem over one or several semesters), or service learning (meaningful community service integrated with instruction).
First Year Engineering Design Projects
Half of ENGR 101 is devoted to groups of three or four freshmen each solving an open-ended design problem, during their first semester as college students. First year engineering design is an optimal teaching methodology for increasing engineering persistence to graduation (Fortenberry, et al, Science, 317:1175-76, 2007).