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Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 35, Issue 8, pp 1312–1323 | Cite as

Comparison of Student Learning in Challenge-based and Traditional Instruction in Biomedical Engineering

  • Taylor MartinEmail author
  • Stephanie D. Rivale
  • Kenneth R. Diller
Article

Abstract

This paper presents the results of a study comparing student learning in an inquiry-based and a traditional course in biotransport. Collaborating learning scientists and biomedical engineers designed and implemented an inquiry-based method of instruction that followed learning principles presented in the National Research Council report “How People Learn” (HPL). In this study, the intervention group was taught a core biomedical engineering course in biotransport following the HPL method. The control group was taught by traditional didactic lecture methods. A primary objective of the study was to identify instructional methods that facilitate the early development of adaptive expertise (AE). AE requires a combination of two types of engineering skills: subject knowledge and the ability to think innovatively in new contexts. Therefore, student learning in biotransport was measured in two dimensions: A pre and posttest measured knowledge acquisition in the domain and development of innovative problem-solving abilities. HPL and traditional students’ test scores were compared. Results show that HPL and traditional students made equivalent knowledge gains, but that HPL students demonstrated significantly greater improvement in innovative thinking abilities. We discuss these results in terms of their implications for improving undergraduate engineering education.

Keywords

Adaptive expertise How people learn Biotransport instruction Challenge-based learning Teaching methods Student learning measurements 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the National Science Foundation for the VaNTH Engineering Research Center in Bioengineering Educational Technologies Award Number EEC-9876363. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The following bioengineering and learning science colleagues made substantial contributions to this study. Robert Roselli and Kevin Seale from Vanderbilt University and Neil Wright from Michigan State University contributed via collaborations in gathering and sharing instructional data from biotransport courses they taught. Sean Brophy from Purdue University contributed via discussions concerning learning science aspects of the research. Robert Roselli also collaborated over a period of years in creating and sharing many biotransport modules and in developing methods for using the modules to teach in the HPL framework.

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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Taylor Martin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stephanie D. Rivale
    • 1
  • Kenneth R. Diller
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Curriculum and InstructionThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical EngineeringThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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