Undergraduate engineering and engineering technology laboratory assignments are often performed as ready-made, step-by-step experiments allowing for little collaboration in their execution, with the instructor acting as the content expert and dispenser of facts. In contrast, a constructivist approach involves the instructor taking less of an authoritarian role and serving as a facilitator, guiding students to understanding the material by promoting inquiry and discourse among peers. This study explores two vastly different “cooperative learning” approaches to a first semester engineering technology laboratory. The aim was to investigate student performance, including laboratory equipment proficiency, during the first half of the semester on a series of DC circuit assignments. The control group was taught in a predominantly positivist fashion that allowed for no more than two students per equipment setup while the participant group was taught using the same instructional materials but from a more constructivist perspective. In this approach, teams of four students per equipment setup worked together to achieve understanding using predefined roles directly related to ABET student outcomes. Data for the study included pre-and post-lab assessments, laboratory observations and an individually administered laboratory competency exam. Descriptive and inferential statistics indicate that, on average, the treatment group outperformed the control group on laboratory assignments and the competency exam. Implications for teaching engineering and engineering technology laboratories as well as future research are discussed.

Date of creation, presentation, or exhibit



©2017 American Society for Engineering Education

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Department, Program, or Center

Electrical, Computer and Telecommunications Engineering Technology (CET)


RIT – Main Campus