Teaching Innovation Projects


Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Faculty of Engineering


Experimental sessions in the Laboratory are usually preceded by instructional sessions where student participants are taught about the activities they will be doing in the laboratory. Despite this activity, many times students approach the actual experimentation in the laboratory as mere routine with an expected result. Hence, they are not mentally engaged rather expecting to follow strict procedures as written in the book (manual) and deliver as expected by the book. This is a hindrance to actual learning. This seminar considers an inquiry-based learning approach as a teaching technique for pre-laboratory sessions by Graduate Teaching Assistants which will help engage the undergraduate students more in laboratory activities for productive learning.

This presentation is aimed at the Graduate Teaching Assistant (herein referred to as GTA) whose duty usually include preparing students for experimental sessions in the laboratory such as is obtained in MME 2285 (Experimental Methods), a course in Western’s Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.

For a GTA in this course and similar courses in Engineering, the Professor expects the GTA to hold instructional (taught) sessions with the students ahead of the Laboratory session where he teaches them rudiments of the laboratory experiment and issues pertaining to the laboratory which the students might not grasp in the lecture room typically taught by the Professor. Usually, the lecture room by the professor follow the traditional teaching methods and some students when not able to understand what was taught assume they will understand once they undertake the experiment in the laboratory. However, this is not always the case, so it is important they understand it before actual experimentation commenced. For the GTA through whom students have a second chance at learning from the experimentation, it is usually better to adopt a different teaching method from that which the student earlier encountered in the lecture room. The proposed teaching method is Inquiry-Based learning (herein referred to as IBL) which deviates from the traditional method and engage the student more thereby helping them to understand while complementing what they had been taught as it engages their reasoning. Where students already understood the pre-laboratory sessions in the lecture room with the professor, further teaching through IBL by the GTA will help to engage the student more and help students to mentally adjudge the work they do in the laboratory during the actual experimentation. Ditto, in cases where student erroneously think they understood the first lecture, the IBL session with the GTA can help correct misconceptions and thus avoid/understand potential pitfalls during actual experimentations in the laboratory.

Since IBL is question driven (Queen University Centre for Teaching and Learning), the GTA will be able to assess the level of understanding of students based on the teachings they have had with the professor. This enables the GTA to understand the specific needs of students as he undertakes the teaching session. The GTA could potentially benefit immensely from this teaching method in his capacity as a Graduate experimentalist as ideas deduced from doing IBL with undergraduate students could be a valuable input in the GTA graduate studies and research.

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