DUE Provides Support to Project Based Subjects

By Elizabeth Cooper, Senior Project Manager

The Task force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons defined some goals for improving the first year experience at MIT including infusing excitement into the first year, developing greater creative capacity, establishing the importance of self –directed learning, motivating the acquisition of disciplinary knowledge, illuminating connections among different disciplines and fostering teamwork and communication skills. The Task Force thought these goals might be facilitated by a project-based subject in the first year and thus described in their report learning activities that might be accomplished in a well-designed project-based subject. These learning activities might include design or creation, the synthesis of ideas and techniques, the use of “real-world” problems, cross-disciplinary interactions and outcomes that are defined through informed decisions.

Six project-based subjects, whose development was funded by the d’Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Education, piloted their initial subject offerings this academic year. These included:

  • 4.001J, 11.004J Cityscope taught by Diane Davis and John Fernandez in Architecture and J. Phillip Thompson from Urban Studies and Planning

  • 5.92 Energy, Environment, and Society taught by Jeffrey Steinfeld, Chemistry,Jefferson Tester, ChemE and Amanda Graham, LFEE

  • 2.00AJ, 16.00AJ Explore Space, Sea and Earth Fundamentals of Engineering Design taught by Dava Newman, and Edward Crawley, Aero/Astro, Alexandra Techet and Alexander Slocum, MechE

  • 6.07J, HST.410J Freshman Projects in Microscale Engineering for the Life Sciences taught by Dennis Freeman, EECS, Martha Gray, HST, and Alexander Aranyosi, RLE

  • Physics of Energy, a freshman advising seminar taught by James Kirtley and Steven Leeb, EECS, Leslie Norford, Architecture

  • 2.00B Solving Real Problems Using Systems Thinking and Design taught by Dan Frey and David Wallace, MechE, Camilla Shannon and Sally Susnowitz, Public Service Center.

A number of individuals in DUE provided support to the faculty teaching these subjects during the year of their development and in the pilot year. Overall coordination was managed by Peggy Enders and Elizabeth Cooper in OFS. Ongoing assessment of the first-year experience is being organized by Elizabeth Cooper from OFS with other participants from Institutional Research, Engineering, OEIT and CMI. Advice on classroom technology was provided by Katie Livingston-Vale and Phil Long from OEIT, learning objectives by Lori Breslow and Janet Rankin from TLL, space issues handled by Peter Bedrosian from the Registrar’s Office, publicity by Julie Norman and the UAAP staff. These individuals, along with other participants from the wider MIT community and the instructors from 2.000, 12.000 and 16.000, met on a quarterly basis with the PB instructors to discuss issues and opportunities.

On May 14, a PB Celebration Day was held in Stata. Organized by Elizabeth Cooper from OFS, it gave faculty and TAs an opportunity to show the MIT community the projects and activities that took place during the pilot year. The project based students and faculty met for a reception in Building 13 after the Stata event.