Scholarly article on topic 'Development of a Problem based Learning in Concrete Technology Laboratory Work'

Development of a Problem based Learning in Concrete Technology Laboratory Work Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Shahrizan Baharom, Roszilah Hamid, Noraini Hamzah

Abstract Concrete technology laboratory involved a series of experiments in order to obtain specified strength of concrete samples. The lab is a hands-on where the second year students of civil engineering do the actual design, material properties test, mixing the concrete, wet and hardened concrete test. Concrete technology laboratory were handled in traditional way where students are given the laboratory manual, without knowing why each experiment is run and what is the relationship between the experiments with real engineering problems. In 2007 the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, National University of Malaysia (UKM) has taken initiative to introduce problem based learning in concrete technology laboratory and continued in 2011. The concrete technology laboratory is part of Material Technology course syllabus in UKM. Problem based learning (PBL) is a recognised teaching and learning strategy used to engage students in deep rather than surface learning. Implementing PBL in concrete technology laboratory work will reduce a problem such as free riders and lack of understanding the relationship between individual experiments with the problem to be solved. The paper focuses on the development of this process from traditional lab to PBL, which includes past and latest experiences, strategy and difficulties.

Academic research paper on topic "Development of a Problem based Learning in Concrete Technology Laboratory Work"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 60 (2012) 8 - 13

UKM Teaching and Learning Congress 2011

Development of a Problem Based Learning in Concrete Technology

Laboratory Work

Shahrizan Baharoma*, Roszilah Hamida,b, Noraini Hamzaha

a Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia b Centre for Education Engineering Research, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

Abstract

Concrete technology laboratory involved a series of experiments in order to obtain specified strength of concrete samples. The lab is a hands-on where the second year students of civil engineering do the actual design, material properties test, mixing the concrete, wet and hardened concrete test. Concrete technology laboratory were handled in traditional way where students are given the laboratory manual, without knowing why each experiment is run and what is the relationship between the experiments with real engineering problems. In 2007 the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, National University of Malaysia (UKM) has taken initiative to introduce problem based learning in concrete technology laboratory and continued in 2011. The concrete technology laboratory is part of Material Technology course syllabus in UKM. Problem based learning (PBL) is a recognised teaching and learning strategy used to engage students in deep rather than surface learning. Implementing PBL in concrete technology laboratory work will reduce a problem such as free riders and lack of understanding the relationship between individual experiments with the problem to be solved. The paper focuses on the development of this process from traditional lab to PBL, which includes past and latest experiences, strategy and difficulties.

© 2011PublishedbyElsevierLtd. Selection and/orpeer reviewedunderresponsibilityofthe UKMTeachingand LearningCongress 2011

Keywords: Problem-based; concrete; laboratory; traditional; experiences

1. Introduction

The traditional way of handling the laboratory work is a passive learning. The disadvantages of the traditional way of handling laboratory work as explained by Hamid (2009) are:

a) Students are not clear on the relationship between the theory and the practical work. An example will be the design parameters of the concrete mix, where the parameters needed in the design are priory given by the lecturer, thus the importance of obtaining the value through experiment is lost.

b) The reports produced by the students are low in quality and most students copied each other due to the content of the report is more on observation and the results of the experiments are already expected.

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +6-03-8921-6213; fax: +6-03-8921-6147 E-mail address: shah@eng.ukm.my.

1877-0428 © 2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer reviewed under responsibility of the UKM Teaching and Learning Congress 2011 doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.09.339

c) The ability of the students to solve the problem of the experiment is limited and students only depend on the content of the lectures without acquiring other references or information. The students ability to think is bounded and they are not given the opportunity to present their own and new ideas.

Due to the disadvantages perceived in the traditional way of handling the laboratory work, problem based learning method is being opted to Material Technology laboratory work. PBL is one of the student-centred instructional method in which students learn through solving ill-structured problems (Barrows 2000). The lecturers act to facilitate the learning process rather than to provide knowledge. PBL sessions were impossible to implement throughout Material Technology course due to large class size and limited human resource. Thus, combined lectured-based and problem-based learning has been used as teaching delivery method. PBL are used in concrete laboratory as one of the requirement of Material Technology course. The laboratory work help introduces student to materials used in current construction industry. Nearly two-thirds of the class topics focus on concrete materials.

2. Traditional to PBL laboratory

2.1. First Phase (2007-2008)

This phase was the first transition from traditional to PBL lab. In concrete technology lab, students were divided into groups. Group size has number of element, including, the degree of participation and strength of bonds (Ellies, 2000). Group sizes of four to five on average have had been decided. Each group was given a task to design a concrete mix for a specific structural element in certain construction project as shown in Table 1. The solutions require the students to determine the suitable grade of concrete, water cement ratio, slump and wet density of concrete. They have to prepare their own mix. After that, they have to test whether the concrete grade is equal to the grade designed. In order to carry out experiments, students need to follow certain standard procedure such as British (BSI) and American (ACI).

Table 1. Example of titles for PBL

Group Titles

1 You are appointed as site engineer for housing project. The structure will be exposed to high water saturation with de-icing agent. As a site engineer you need to give information for mix design.

2 You are appointed as site engineer for underground project. The structure will permanently submerge in non-aggressive water. As a site engineer you need to give information for mix design.

3 You are appointed as site engineer for a project in coastal area. You need to prepare information for mix design for structure, which will expose to airborne salt but not in direct contact with seawater.

4 You are appointed as site engineer to construct a car park slab structure. The slab will be affected directly by de-icing salts. You need to prepare information for mix design for the structure.

5 You are appointed as site engineer for project in coastal area. You need to prepare information for mix design for structure, which will be permanently submerged in seawater.

They were second year students and never had experience in using testing equipment and knowledge in testing standard. However due to constraints within the university timetable, each group was assigned with demonstrator. Students also were supplied with manual, which described the testing procedure in sequence order as shown in Table 2. Testing procedures in were explained by demonstrator step-by-step manners before the students had their experiment. Each group was also assigned with experiment time slot base on sequence order in manual given.

Table 2. Testing procedures

No Experiments

Labi Sieve analysis, determination of specific gravity and moisture content of fine aggregate

Lab2 Determination of specific gravity and moisture content of the coarse aggregate

Lab3 Wet concrete test

Lab4 Concrete hardened test for 7 days

Lab5 Concrete hardened test for 28 days

2.2. Second/Latest Phase (2009-2011)

However, first phase of implementation of PBL was still governed by spoon-feeding learning pattern. Even though each group was given a problem to solve, they were still excluded from planning process, which is a part of PBL. Students also were given all material needed for experiments and explained by demonstrator. Being brought up in such a learning environment, students still experience passive learning style. By acknowledged the deficiencies from the first phase have produced the enhanced method and strategies. For latest phase, similar to first phase, students were given with a problem. This time there were no step-by-step explanation from demonstrators and no manuals with sequence order were supplied. The best way was to let students find standard for the experiments as proposed by Hamid (2009). However, considering that there is no standard testing manual available in the library and are very expensive to buy, manuals were uploaded in E-learning system called SPIN. Manuals were uploading in sequence order and not only limited to the availability of apparatus and its use for PBL lab. Students have to select manual needed for PBL lab and need to understand the laboratory procedures before doing the experiment. The examples of manual titles are shown in Table 3. Apart from manuals, students have to search for information from various sources in order make certain what are the parameters needed to come up with the designed solution. With this approach students will be more discipline and properly plan their work.

Table 3. Example of manual upload in E-learning system and its usability for PBL lab and apparatus availability

Manuals Apparatus Availability Usability

Compressive strength of test specimens (EN 12390-3: 2009) Yes Yes

Slump test (EN 12350-2: 2009) Yes Yes

Tensile splitting strength of test specimens (EN 12390-6: 2009) Yes Yes

Determination of ultrasonic pulse velocity (EN 12504-4:2001) Yes No

Self-compacting concrete — J-ring test (EN 12350-12: 2009) No No

2.3. Future Phase

In the future, open-ended problem based is proposed for concrete laboratory. However the discussion on the implementation of open-ended lab is not part of this paper.

3. Difficulties

3.1. Students

The changes from traditional lab to a more student centred approach such as PBL have an impact on the system. For example, the change is uncomfortable for students at the beginning because they need to learn to succeed in a new method with completely different rules (Winer, 2004). As mention earlier, the PBL was implemented in Year 2, students had little prior knowledge of the concrete lab procedure, and so their worries of and concerns about the accuracy of information are reasonable. Students need direction and motivation to start with new adopted learning process. In order to solve the issues arise, the students were encouraged to have pre-lab session to prepare their mind.

The elements of pre-lab session are as follows, a) Briefing of PBL Lab to students by facilitator.

b) Students need to plan their work and discuss with the facilitator (demonstrator/lecturer).

c) Students need to visit lab to identify apparatus needed.

d) Students need to choose a suitable procedure base on standard manual and discuss with the facilitator (lecturer)/coach (technician).

e) Revision of theory

3.2. Time Constraint

The objective of the implementation of PBL is to encourage students to prepare for their laboratory session in an active and collaborative manner through lab exercises. By combining elements of group work, discussion and hands-on activities, the students were provided with an environment conducive to meaningful, deep learning. However this may result in heavy workload due to an overcrowded curriculum if it is not well planned and monitored and the learning objective will not be achieved. Table 4 show the list of course taken by Year 2 students.

Table 4. Course taken by year 2 students

Code Course Lab Requirements

H (UC) Co-curriculum 3 No

ZZZT1043 (U1) Ethnics Relation No

KKKQ2124 Engineering Mathematics III No

KKKH2134 Fluid Mechanics Yes

KKKH2144 Mechanics of Materials No

KKKH2164 Civil Engineering Materials and Technology Yes

Apart from year 2, year 3 and year 4 also required lab to fulfil the requirement of the course as listed in Table 5. Data from Table 4 and Table 5 shows that to implements the PBL Lab, students' workload and human resource (technicians) need to take into consideration. Then, a notional hour for PBL lab should include contact time (laboratory) plus the independent learning time such as pre-lab, library reading time, group discussion etc.

Table 5. Lab requirements for year 3 and year 4

Code Course Lab Requirements

KKKH3254 Highway Engineering Yes

KKKH3154 Geotechnics II Yes

KKKH4102/4106 Research Project Yes

It should be borne in mind that the concrete laboratory only part of the Civil Engineering Material and Technology course and contribute about 30% of marks to the final. Considering the marks given, it should be proportioned to the time given by the students. Hamid (2009) has proposed steps in applying problem-based learning method in laboratory work. Amongst those steps are the lab schedule is not prepared for the students. The students have to book the laboratory ahead to do the experiment. It should be borne in mind that 10 to 14 groups are involved in this PBL exercise and apart from Year 2 students; Year 3 and Year 4 students also use the same laboratory for other course and dissertation as mention earlier.

In reality, due to constraints within the university timetable, it was impossible to change the time slots allocated to this course; however, how the time was used can be changed. Each group (G) was given with laboratory slot as shown in Table 6. Students need to manage their own time based on the slot given. This strategy will solve the issue of overlapped timetable and limited equipment and human resource without excluding planning process.

3.3. Technician/Coach

Students work closely with the technicians. The roles of technicians are very important. PBL lab styles also are very new to them. PBL requires that technicians adjust to the role of coach. As this role is so critical to the PBL process, briefing was given to all technicians. Technicians were stressed not to stop students if they found students doing wrong method unless the method will damage the equipment. They also have been asked not to explain the specific method unless students asked them to do so but students need to choose the method beforehand. This style need more students afford and self-learning which constitute 'good learning' approach.

Table 6. Slots given to each group

Date Slot 1 Slot 2 Slot 3 Slot 4 Slot 5

04.10.2011 G1 & G2 G3 & G4

11.10.2011 G3 & G4 G1 & G2

18.10.2011 G5 & G6 G7 & G8 G1 & G2

25.10.2011 G7 & G8 G5 & G6 G3 & G4 G1 & G2

01.11.2011 G3 & G4

08.11.2011 MID-TERM BREAK

15.11.2011 G5 & G6 G1 & G2

22.11.2011 G7 & G8 G5 & G6 G3 & G4

29.11.2011 G7 & G8

06.12.2011

13.12.2011 G5 & G6

20.12.2011 G7 & G8

4. Assessment

Assessment could be one of the most controversial issues in PBL (Savin-Baden, 2004). The final objective of the experiments is to obtain concrete strength as required in the problem given. They have to test whether the concrete grade is equal to the grade designed. Objective will be achieved if the difference of design and actual concrete strength are within 5%. However there is high possibility where the result is outside acceptable value. Problem-based learning is an instructional method where students "learn to learn," working cooperatively in groups to seek solutions to real world problems. Due to this reason the students should not be panelised due to their final result. In order to consider the assessment of PBL lab, the whole process of this exercise was assessed using written reports from three stages, which were initial, interim and final. Rubric was use in assessing all students' reports. This method will enable facilitator to assess students' performance constructively and reliably in problem-Based Learning (PBL). It should be noticed that the use of rubric would reflect authenticity in assessment. The descriptions of all reports are as follows;

4.1. Initial Report

This report should include the big picture of the whole experiment. Students need to plan their experiment ahead in sequence order.

4.2. Interim Report

Executive summary (max: 2 pages) - This report should include new things they have learnt, problem they have encountered and how to solve that issue for each experiment through PBL process. These reports need to be submitted within one week after each experiment.

Log books- This document was used to asses on how students do planning and manage their groups. Students should include the minutes of group meetings, discussion with facilitator/coach and lab visit, action taken, preliminary ideas, etc. Students were also need to specify their role, for example, chair, reader and writer. In addition, peer assessment will took place at the end of exercise.

Technicians' report- This report is used to asses students performance during the experiments. It should be noticed that most of documents only asses the cognitive level of the students. This report is important to measure the students' psychomotor performance where it link to the theories they had learnt (cognitive) in the class. Students were assessed on the skills on how they conduct measurements, handle instruments (compression test machine, concrete mixer, oven, etc), and technique. Apart from psychomotor performance, students' preparation which are mental (understanding of procedure) and physical (dress, punctuality, cooperation, etc) also were assessed. This report is in the form of rubric.

4.3. Final Report

Students should draw together the method and results and to report, analyse and draw conclusions in a concise and informative style. The written reports should emphasis on the conclusions that the students have to draw from their results, and how these related to the original problem they were given.

5. Conclusion

The handling of lab work using PBL method can reduce the problem encountered in traditional way such as free riders and lack of understanding on the relationship between individual lab works with the problem to be solved. However apart from talking about the success in the PBL process, there also need to mention the about difficulties. Lecturer should consider student workload, faculty timetable, facilities, readiness of the technician and etc. in implementing PBL. Finally the assessment should cover the whole process of PBL not only focusing on the final result.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank UKM for providing the research grant (PTS-2011-018). References

Barrows, H.S. (2000). Problem-based learning applied to medical education. Springfield IL: Southern Illinois University Press. Ellis, S. and Dick, P. (2000). Introduction to Organisational Behaviour. London: McGraw-Hill.

Hamid, R., K. M. Yusof, S.A. Osman and R.A.O.K. Rahmat. (2009). Improvement in Delivery Methods in Teaching Materials Technology,

WSEAS Transactions on Advances in Engineering Education, 6(3), 77-86. Savin-Baden M. (2004). Understanding the impact of assessment on students in problem-based learning. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 41, 223-233.

Winer, L. R., Berthiaume, D., &Arcuri, N. (2004). A case study of changing the learning environment in law: introducing computer-supported collaborative activities. Educational Research and Evaluation, 10(4-6), 441-472.