Fostering an Active Learning Environment for Undergraduates: Peer-to-Peer Interactions in a Research Group
The benefits of active learning in the traditional classroom setting are well established among engineering educators; however, this learning model can thrive in other settings, namely in a research group. This work presents findings from an educational research project specifically designed to foster active learning among undergraduates and graduate students. Observations and data were collected in the Research Communications Studio (RCS), which uses the research group as a forum for active learning. Distributed cognition is a key concept behind the structure of the RCS. Specific practices that facilitate active participation are described, and a quantitative analysis of group discourse is used to confirm activity levels and to characterize the nature of the group interactions. The methods used to foster active learning can be adapted to a variety of research group settings.