An Examination of the Experiences of Women Studying Engineering using a Problem or Project-Based Learning Approach at Two Universities in the UK Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Chloe Deborah Bellamy

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Project and problem-based learning are teaching methods used in engineering education but there was a lack of research into the impact on women in the UK. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with thirteen students and two lecturers. The interviews were transcribed and thematically analysed. Project and problem-based learning are useful methods for teaching engineering as it mimics the way engineers work and helps them gain useful skills for engineers. This is of particular importance to women as they are less likely to know what engineers do. However, it should be made clearer to students that this is the purpose of the method, so they are aware it mimics the way engineers work. Furthermore, engineering culture needs to change, so women are able to make informed choices about their careers. On the other hand, the use of group work, as seen in project and problem-based learning, can result in women feeling they only belong on the non-technical side of engineering due to the ‘feedback loop’. The ‘feedback loop’ occurs when students are assigned to one task in their first group work project based on stereotypical assumptions of what they would be good at. They are then assigned this task in subsequent work because they have become skilled at it. Group work was found to be important online as it allows students to meet each other. However, project and problem-based learning seem too complex to use online. Overall, the key contribution to knowledge from this study is the link between the ‘feedback loop’ and belonging in that the ‘feedback loop’ effects the skills women gain which then impacts where they feel they belong.
Date of Award21 Sept 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCharlotte Morris (Supervisor), Jovana Radulovic (Supervisor) & Jane Creaton (Supervisor)

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