Improving students’ learning behaviors through hands-on algae based project

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4 Scopus citations


Algae were used as a special topic area for a first-year engineering project that was collaboratively taught through instructional pairing. The selection of ‘‘algae’’ was intentional as it is ubiquitous and it has been used by many civilizations for nutrition, healing, and in aquaculture. The current challenging research on algae ranges from biofuels, innovative materials, electricity to much more. As such, algae can be used for teaching a variety of core engineering concepts such as materials, energy, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, water and wastewater treatment, nutrition, and green engineering. The ‘‘algae’’ theme can also be easily extended to integrate concepts from humanities such as global engineering challenges, ethics, gender/racial biases, and public policy. The overarching goal of the algae project was to introduce students to project based learning using a live organism and to expose students to engineering fundamentals and core concepts from the humanities. The project was taught over the course of four weeks of a semester with a group of 69 first year engineering students. Hands on activities along with a team project were an integral part of the course. Students were assigned to teams and then given the role of investigating the potential for algae to be used to grow the economy of a country of their choice. Over the course of the project, students conducted hands-on experiments focused on cell culture, harvesting, gas transfer, and other algae applications. The team project allowed them to learn about governance, politics, policy, economy, and social issues about their country. Students’ adaptive learning practices and perceived confidence of learning were assessed through surveys and focus groups. Students demonstrated increases in their learning goal orientation, task value and perceived confidence in learning with some statistically significant changes as observed in their self-efficacy and self-regulated learning. Focus group results further supported how this project was able to provide a venue for students to make connections with their selected career path and build perseverance when facing difficult problems. Although the sample size is small, the results show positive trends for the use of an algae based collaboratively taught project to improve student’s adaptive learning and perceived confidence in learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1343-1352
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Engineering


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