A case study in active learning: Teaching undergraduate research in an engineering classroom setting

Michelle Pantoya, Patrick C. Hughes, Jennifer S. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Exposing undergraduate engineering students to research provides an opportunity to assess students' interest in research. Developing research skills at an undergraduate level promotes increased understanding of the basic concepts taught through textbook instruction and provides an awareness of industry relevant issues. This study reports on the introduction of engineering research to undergraduate students in a classroom environment. The course was designed around technical experiments inspired by Michael Faraday's lectures from The Chemical History of a Candle. Fourteen engineering undergraduates enrolled in a Special Topics in Mechanical Engineering course at a large southwestern university participated in five problem-based learning activities that engaged students using interactive, hands-on lessons and activities designed to teach the research process. Based on student assessments, the lessons learned from this experience revealed students understood the practice of research after only three activities yet, the last two activities provide valuable repetition that reinforce the research concepts and allowed for students' critical reflection on research processes. Also, only 20% of the students reported enjoying research enough to pursue graduate school, all of which would commit to a PhD rather than a master's degree.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-64
Number of pages11
JournalEngineering Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013


  • Active learning
  • Engineering research
  • Michael Faraday
  • Science
  • Undergraduate research curriculum


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