Learning Through Challenges: Introducing Soft Skills to Freshman Engineering Students

Learning Through Challenges: Introducing Soft Skills to Freshman Engineering Students

J. Giraldo, J. Cruz, J. Londoño (2014).  Learning Through Challenges: Introducing Soft Skills to Freshman Engineering Students. 11.

There are some skills that are easier to teach than others. Finding ways for introducing, teaching and evaluating non-technical or non-disciplinary skills is troublesome. As an outcome of a recent curriculum review our faculty concluded that “Introduction to Engineering" is a core course to introduce soft skills. This paper describes the foundations and motivations behind the effort of last years at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana for designing a course that engage students through motivating experiences in order to teach them how to apply soft skills. A detail description of activities to introduce eight learning outcomes is presented. CDIO consortium recommends an introduction to engineering course in first year. The background of first year students is heterogeneous, so teachers’ efforts must take into account this circumstance and the gradual adaptation of students to their new way of thinking as future engineers. This first course has the very important objectives of engaging students and motivating them to study engineering taking in consideration the context of future real life problems, the different learning styles of students, the wide variety of personalities and the mentioned heterogeneous background. Soft skills are acquired while students work in four projects that we have called them challenges. We think that even this denomination is important because students feel challenged to solve the proposed problems. Three of them are oriented to build artifacts to solve hypothetical problems and one is oriented to solve a real life problem. We deeply think that this course has great impact along curriculum and the attitude of freshmen students towards the study of engineering.

Soft skills: 1. Teamwork: A role out of four is assigned to every student as a member team to solve every challenge, and every student must assume a different one through out the four projects. 2. Written communication: Because writing is a matter of ideas, not grammar, we have introduced an innovative application of XML format that supports the organization of ideas to teach how to prepare a tech report. 3. Oral communication: After every presentation is delivered, feedback from other students is given following some criteria. 4. Lifelong learning: Tools to know, recognize and understand the students’ own learning styles are provided since the beginning of course.

Following skills are introduced per project: 5. Decision making: Every student has to decide which project is the best one according to some engineering argumentation. 6. Ethic Impact: Own decisions might affect overall group grades. 7. Competitiveness: Grades are assigned according to the performance of each artifact. 8. Cooperative work. If proposed artifact solves the problem, all students will receive a grade bonus. Every student can help with development of other projects. Documents are provided to illustrate the needs for solving problems. They include a context with a letter of requirement, description of problem with constraints and grading criteria.

Proceedings of the 10th International CDIO Conference, Barcelona, Spain, June 15-19 2014

Authors (New): 
Juan Giraldo
Juan Cruz
Jairo Alberto Hurtado Londoño
Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia
effective communication
CDIO standard 4
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