Collaborative PBL to teach calculus to engineering students: The important role of collaborative professors

Gilberto Duarte Cuzzuol, Lílian Barros Pereira Campos, Diana Mesquita, Rui M. Lima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Teaching Calculus can be one of the most challenging practices in the engineering context for several reasons. It is taught at the beginning of engineering courses in a critical phase of student transition between high school and university. And most of the time, students are notable to understand the meaning of some contents in relation to Engineering. In the engineering education context, the disciplines of Calculus are responsible for high failure rates and students’ dropout. Besides that, lectures are predominantly used, with rigid contents centered on the blackboard and in the book. Therefore, students have low interaction with teachers. Besides, students have difficulty building their own knowledge and to understand the importance of mathematical methods and procedures. However, this paper shows a collaborative project-based learning (CPBL) experience to teach Calculus to engineering students with an important support of capstone courses teachers as collaborative professors. Students were asked to choose a phenomenon of their Engineering area of knowledge and explain why and how it needs integrals and derivatives to be explained. 127 students from six engineering courses were involved in the experiment. The students were organized in teams and tutored by capstone courses faculty. These professors were called collaborative professors. This paper aims to describe the collaborative professors’ interactions with the teams and analyze the outcomes in terms of the perception of learning and development of transversal competences. The evaluation was based on content analysis of the reports delivered by the students. 100% of the groups evaluated the experience as positive. The students used adjectives such as ‘‘excellent’’, ‘‘extraordinary’’ to characterize the experience. In addition, students reported the following learning outcomes: knowledge and understanding; analysis; problem-solving; creativity/ originality; communication and presentation; evaluation; planning and organization; interactive and group competences. Some groups reported that, in this project, they used laboratories and created prototypes that they will keep on researching and developing to take these ideas to the market. Yet, in this experience, the failure rate of this discipline that previously was 95% dropped to 5%.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1456-1465
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Active learning
  • Calculus for engineering
  • Engineering education
  • Project-based learning


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