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A cognitive apprenticeship approach to engineering education: the role of learning styles

Author(s): Gérard Poitras | Eric Poitras

Journal: Engineering Education
ISSN 1750-0044

Volume: 6;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 62;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: learning styles | cognitive apprenticeship

Prior to the creation of engineering schools, engineering was taught in an apprenticeship style. However, from the onset of formal engineering education, engineering curricula have been based largely on science and mathematical knowledge. Applied subject based learning (usually called traditional teaching methods) is still a common teaching model in engineering education programmes today. The professor or tutor passes information to the students, the newly acquired knowledge is applied to specific problems and communication between students and professor (and between students themselves) is limited. In order to better prepare future engineers for the workplace, many engineering educators are implementing innovative approaches to teaching and learning in their classrooms (e.g. problem based learning). In the work described in this paper, a cognitive apprenticeship approach is used. This teaching model includes the main assumptions of the problem based learning approach and also defines instructional methods for enhancing learning. The model was used for teaching two groups of civil engineering students enrolled in their third and fourth year. Results of the two experiments showed that the cognitive apprenticeship approach used for teaching undergraduate civil engineering students was favoured by most of the students, independent of their preferred learning style. The implications of these findings with regard to implementing the cognitive apprenticeship approach in civil engineering education are discussed.
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