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Making projects work: a review of transferable best practice approaches to engineering project-based learning in the UK

Author(s): Ruth Graham | Edward Crawley

Journal: Engineering Education
ISSN 1750-0044

Volume: 5;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 41;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: project-based learning | problem-based learning | curriculum development | engineering education research

In line with international trends, project-based learning is increasingly being viewed as an important feature of engineering education in the UK. The paper presents findings from a snapshot review of current approaches. Undertaken in 2009, the review was informed by consultations with UK and international experts and practitioners in engineering education, project-based learning and problem-based learning. It forms part of a wider programme of work at the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Programme at MIT to promote leadership and project-based learning in the engineering curriculum.The findings suggest that project-based activities are often developed by staff operating as lone 'champions' with limited time, resources and support. Given these structural constraints, approaches which have been 'tried and tested' elsewhere could provide robust models, particularly initiatives which are well-regarded by the engineering education community. However, evidence from the review indicates that many well-known approaches to project-based learning do not offer readily transferable models, either because they are catering to low student numbers on relatively high per capita budgets or because they are relying on specialist in-house expertise or equipment.Against this background, this paper discusses the key features of successful engineering project-based learning experiences in the UK. A selection of transferable best practice examples currently in operation is presented that could, potentially, be adopted 'out-of-the-box' at other institutions. The paper concludes by noting the importance of institutional support for the current and future success of project-based learning in the UK engineering curriculum.
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