When implemented in an effective manner, academic teams are an instrumental approach to foster innovation driven learning in STEM classrooms. In particular, the impact of collaboration, as opposed to individual-centered activities, on creativity has been identified as an effective way to promote technological innovation (Sawyer, 2007). Inspired by the potential of these collaborative learning approaches and innovation-driven principles, the Renaissance Foundry (Arce et al., 2015) is a powerful protocol to train students to become innovators in their (STEM) field. Specifically, the Renaissance Foundry outlines a way for students to develop a prototype of innovative technology guided by a series of steps known as the Linear Engineering Sequence (LES). A central part of this protocol, and the core of the LES, is the formation, development, management and mentoring of academic teams.
In this contribution, the co-authors will describe the important role of teams in innovation-driven learning approaches, the different aspects required to be successful in this type of environment, and the protocols used to design innovation-driven teams, to select team members, and to manage their activities. In particular, one of the tools to be described in this presentation is the agreement of cooperation which builds on the notions of the importance of accountability and guided structure for the members of the team. The co-authors will also review key motivational principles and possible ways to implement them within this collaborative setting. Illustrative examples will be drawn from two key activities conducted during the Spring 2015 in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Tennessee Technological University: an undergraduate junior level course where the Renaissance Foundry was implemented and a graduate level course for instructors interested in implementing innovation driven learning approaches for undergraduates STEM courses.
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