Embedding authentic practice based learning in engineering undergraduate courses

Whittington, C
Anderson, T
Connor, AM
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School of Engineering, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia


Authentic education, which connects the lessons with students' real lives and their prior knowledge, has the potential to create meaningful learning environments in which students see their lessons as meaningful, useful and relevant. Typically engineering undergraduate courses do not provide students with an opportunity to solve meaningful real life engineering problems that are beneficial for their lives and societies. Authentic engineering education has the potential to help students develop their creativity, problem solving and innovation skills.


The focus of authentic education is to employ interdisciplinary ways in order to solve real-world problems. This study aims at inspiring other educators to integrate authentic scenarios into their teaching activities.


For this study projects and assignments with real life relevance were introduced for several courses across a semester for students enrolled in papers spanning a range of years and engineering disciplines. Students comments on their learning experience with this authentic approach vs. traditional lecture based teaching are included in this paper.


Early observations indicate an increased level of engagement with students more motivated to learn and displaying an enthusiastic positive approach to their study. It is also considerably more exciting and stimulating environment to teach in.


This paper outlines relatively early efforts to change the established learning paradigm in engineering classes and as such it is too early to draw firm conclusions. However, our experiences to date demonstrate that providing a more authentic education environment engages students more positively in their study. Creating such an environment connects theory and practice and exposes students to real life situations and should prepare them better for 21st century challenges.

Real world problems; Authentic learning; Self-directed learning
Proceedings of the 28th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE 2017), pp. 85-95
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