Improving the Impact of Experiential Learning Activities through the Assessment of Student Learning Styles
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© American Society for Engineering Education, 2016. Long a staple of engineering technology, experiential learning is becoming a topic of growing interest among the wider engineering educational community. Experiential learning theory imports practical experiences into the learning environment. While the putative benefits of experiential learning have been highlighted, the activities introduced into the learning environment are rarely systematically designed around the content of the course or the needs of the student population. There has been little work with respect to the effects of these activities on students and their learning. Given the growing interest in experiential learning and the significant costs associated with these activities as opposed to the traditional lecture model, a more robust analysis is needed. This work examines the effects of experiential learning activities on student learning for different types of courses; namely, what effects the abstract or concrete nature of the topic being taught has on the impact of the experiential learning activities. A solid mechanics course is used to highlight an abstract topic, while a manufacturing course is used to evaluate a more concrete topic. Students' learning styles are also important to take into account when examining the effect of experiential learning activities. The Kolb Learning Style Inventory (KLSI) and the Felder and Soloman's Index of Learning Styles (ILS) are used to evaluate student learning styles. The final variable examined in this work is the timing of the experiential learning activities. Across a course type and student learning style, the timing of a practical activity either prior to or after a lecture might be an important factor for an efficient learning cycle. This work examines the type of course, a student's learning style, the effect of experiential activities, and the timing of those activities. The sample of engineering technology students examined for this work is somewhat balanced in aggregate according to the KLSI. The ET group assessed has a higher percentage of active, sensing, visual, and sequential learners than previously reported engineering populations when assessed using the ILS. The effect of experiential learning activity timing is not shown to be a significant factor in student confidence, visualization ability, or competence. Students with moderate or strong preferences along the dimensions of the ILS are not shown to elicit higher confidence, visualization ability, or competence in the two courses. Limitations are detailed and opportunities for future work are highlighted.
author list (cited authors)
Johnson, M., Kim, M., Wang, J., & Yoon, M.