Educational studies in heat and power technology : how students learn with multimedia tools and problem-based learning

Sammanfattning: Higher education is undergoing continuous changes and new learning tools and methods are implemented. Researchers in education do not always agree upon the effectiveness of some of the methods introduced into engineering education. The present thesis consists of two case studies on educational methods introduced at the Department of Energy Technology, at Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Sweden. The qualitative research methodology has been used in case one and a combination of qualitative and quantitative methodology has been used in the second case. The sources of evidences consisted of: unstructured interviews, analysis of video recording, questionnaires, and analysis of a variety of documents. In the first case, an educational program in heat and power technology was analysed. The second case consists in an in-depth study of group dynamics in a Problem –Based Learning course. These studies showed that the learning approach adopted by students depends strongly on the way they view the particular learning tool or method. The first case study revealed the existence of two types of learners. Surfacelearners follow the structure suggested by the designers of the multimedia program. This category of learners focuses only on the material available in the program. Deep-learners go beyond the information and the structure suggested in the program and combine different learning tools in their learning. These students do not follow the structure of the tutorials’ of the multimedia program. This study showed that students who had a strong view how to learn with a multimedia program or a learning method benefited less from the learning tools available. Students with weak views on how to learn from educational program or leaning tool benefit less from the presentation and engage in more surface learning. Self-motivated learners use the multimedia presentation in novel ways and crosscheck the information given with other material. The second study showed that students have unclear and weak views on how to learn with student-directed Problem- Based Learning model. Four types of learners were identified in Problem-Based Learning project: Leaders, Key Actors, Common Students and Social Loafers. Leaders and Key Actors are self-motivated individuals and participate most in the projects. Students who viewed themselves or were viewed as leaders were held responsible to take most of the decisions and students expected them to work more than the average student. Students who viewed themselves as common team members expected a lower workload than leaders’. Key Actors are self-motivated students who do not view themselves as separate from other group members but who participate more than others. Leaders learned more group and social processes, that they did not fully take part in, while common students learned more from the project management aspects that they did not take part in. The study also found that Problem-Based Learning groups can become very cohesive, and can develop distorted views on how to learn with Problem-Based Learning, and un-common group dynamics phenomena such as groupthink can occur in Problem-Based Learning setting.