Project-Based Learning in the First Year

In an environment where families are questioning the value and relevance of higher education, universities must rethink their approach to preparing students for real-world careers, and evidence shows that project-based learning does just that. With the release of the book Project-Based Learning in the First Year: Beyond All Expectations in 2019, a group of more than 10 WPI faculty and staff provide practical advice and tools for administrators and faculty in higher education looking to incorporate project-based learning into their curriculum.

Co-edited by associate dean of undergraduate studies Kris Wobbe and assistant teaching professor of undergraduate studies Elisabeth “Lisa” Stoddard, the publication encapsulates 13 years of faculty and staff efforts to implement project-based learning through the Great Problems Seminar, a two-term course that immerses first-year students into university-level research and introduces them to WPI’s project-based curriculum.

Hear first-hand from students about the value of the Great Problems Seminar experience.

Project-based learning can be utilized in any institution regardless of focus, from liberal arts to engineering, whether public or private. With the experience of exploring real, open-ended problems starting in their first year, students graduate with more confidence and are better prepared to understand and solve challenges in their future careers.

Divided into three sections, the book first presents the impact of project-based learning in the first year and includes suggestions on gaining institutional support. The second section details the planning and preparation required to incorporate projects into the curriculum, as well as the role of faculty, administrators, and staff in the student experience. The final section walks through practical strategies and steps for creating assignments, in-class activities, and team project management tools. Sample syllabi, assignments, and other activities that can be customized for any classroom are also included.