Inquiry Learning Methodologies and the Disposition to Energy Systems Problem Solving

  • Minha R. Ha York University
  • Shinya Nagasaki McMaster University
  • Justin Riddoch McMaster University


In this paper, we argue that it is essential to pay attention to the engineering students’ use of sound methodologies in approaching engineering problems. There are serious challenges created from surface
learning attitudes that undermine foundational, conceptual understanding and basic methods to solve technical problems. Moreover, such attitudes carry over to how students approach the complexity and human aspect of engineering problems. Senior undergraduate energy systems courses were redesigned to develop students’ inquiry and problem solving skills. Data from a post-course survey, completed by 58 senior engineering students, were analyzed using a thematic analysis and basic categorization. Findings suggest that inquiry learning (IL) and problem based learning (PBL) methods offer much value in the students’ development of research
and analytic skills. As well, students gained a deeper appreciation of complexity and the ethical issues in energy system challenges, which may have some impact on their assumed responsibility as engineers - during the process and in the aimed outcomes of their problem solving tasks. We reflect on the findings to propose how IL and PBL might be effectively designed and implemented for engineering students engaged in system level analyses.