2.4.4 Ways of organizing lectures and meetings
Lectures on the subjects, topics and knowledge necessary for students to fulfil the project tasks can either be offered in a course antecedent to the project course or as part of it. As a teacher, you can plan these lectures in advance or you can let the students suggest topics while the course is being held, i.e. lectures-on-demand. And if students suggest topics that are not within your field, you can invite colleagues to teach in your course.
Savin-Baden (2003) describes different approaches regarding the role of the teacher/supervisor as quoted in Davis and Wilcock (15). In project-based learning (case/task and discipline based projects) on the one hand, the teachers supervise the students and lectures might be offered to support the work of the students or it is assumed that the students use knowledge gained from previous courses. In Problem-based learning (problem based projects), on the other hand, teachers are more like facilitators and lectures are not commonly offered since students are expected to define their own learning needs.
Additionally, teachers in project courses will also arrange supervising or coaching meetings with the students. In these meetings, the role of the teachers also differs between a more active supervising role and a more passive coaching role.
An Example from Electronic Design illustrating the method of letting the students ask for lectures when they realise their need: Lectures are offered when the students realise what information and knowledge they need, but it is important that the students have progressed to a certain point of the project and that they have had time to try to come to a solution by themselves. Students have requested and were offered lectures e.g. on how to write reports as well as on thermo dynamics, PCB layout and PIC programming. These lectures are a way to speed up the learning process by getting useful hints at the beginning of the learning process. Often these lectures turn into guidance directly when the need is discovered in any of the groups. It is always a balancing act on how much should be “given” and how much should be found by the students themselves, since one of the ILO:s and assessment criteria is “to identify and acquire relevant information”.
An Example of teachers’ coaching role from the course Lightweight Design/Naval Design:
Meetings for all students are scheduled once a week and the students prepare presentations of parts of the project which they are working on. During the meetings, the students have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss issues that they find problematic. But, the teachers in this course avoid giving direct answers and solutions to the students. Instead the teachers are coaching them by asking counter questions e.g. what would be of most benefit to the project? The teachers say that sometimes it is difficult as a teacher not to give the answers, but the purpose is to make the students own the process as well as the results of the project.
Suggestion: Let the type of project decide if and how you offer lectures and to what extent you will coach or give answers and solutions to your students. To prepare students for as many aspects of the project as possible, antecedent courses containing a number of topics such as team work skills or technical subjects can be offered. Furthermore, you can also give students an opportunity to ask for lectures when they realise they need the knowledge or skill in their projects. Besides lectures, project meetings should be held regularly. The meetings can be attended either by all students or by a representative from each team.