Effects of Service Learning Implemented in an Introductory Engineering Course on Student Attitudes and Abilities in the Context of ABET Outcomes

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Conference Proceeding

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A semester-long, quasi-experimental study with 119 students enrolled in seven sections of an Introduction to Engineering course at Boise State University was conducted to investigate the effectiveness of using a service learning (SL) method on improving student learning, compared to the effectiveness of using a conventional, non-service-learning (NSL) method. The experimental SL group consisted of two of the seven sections of the course, and the NSL group as a comparison group consisted of the other five sections of the course. Although both SL and NSL groups of students participated in collaborative project-based learning environments to complete given assignments, the types of collaborative learning differed in several ways: 1) The SL students completed one comprehensive project for 7 ½ weeks, whereas the NSL students completed a series of small scale problem-solving projects, 2) The SL students worked with the same members of a team throughout the project, whereas the NSL students worked with different team members for each project (teams of four members worked on the SL project, and teams of three members completed the NSL projects), and 3) Each SL team worked with a client from the community to solve a real problem (i.e., real-world learning experience), whereas NSL teams solved a series of projects based on written directions without input and guidance from real clients (i.e., a lack of real-world learning experience). Results showed that the SL method was significantly more effective than the NSL method in terms of 1) positively influencing students’ motivational attitudes toward collaborative project-based learning and 2) improving their self-assessment of engineering abilities measured against ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission program outcomes.

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