Tanju Deveci, Roger Nunn

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Engineering is a discipline that requires its practitioners to learn and use a variety of soft-skills, which include academic and non-academic written and spoken communication, inter- and intrapersonal communication skills, critical thinking ability, an ability to work in teams and an ability to analyze, interpret and synthesize interdisciplinary information from a variety of sources. However, students who pursue their engineering education in English as their second language can face formidable challenges acquiring these skills. It is our observation that such students are often only given assistance through English courses designed to improve their individual linguistic abilities. We believe that although this approach may help in the short term, it may not sufficiently cater for students’ overall needs and well-being in the long term. With this in mind, this paper describes our attempt to reduce this problem in our local context of the Petroleum Institute (PI) through a long term innovation effort.

A project-based approach has been adopted to provide students with an opportunity to enhance their language skills through meaningful learning experiences that also develop professional, personal and academic skills. This approach has also allowed the university to meet ABET criteria related to communication needs of engineering students. In this paper, we give a detailed rationale for our belief that a holistic approach to developing abilities required by engineering and other students is a better option. This is followed by a description of the different components of our current curriculum that has been developed over 12 years. We describe particular activities, and discuss their merits. We also present students’ perceptions about the impact of their project-based learning experience on their language and skills development. We also outline the way the course is designed to be adaptable for unpredictable future needs in a fast developing professional and academic environment.


project-based learning, active learning, engineering education, holistic approach

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