Peer Presentations as a Student-centered Learning Approach in the Nanotechnology Class

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics



Active learning techniques have proven effective at engaging students in course content and fostering deeper learning, as compared with traditional lecture techniques. Additionally, research has shown that one of the best ways to teach professional skills such as communication is within disciplinary courses; this strategy makes the material more relevant to students' career goals. This paper will explore the first phase of a multi-year study on the use of an active learning approach called student-centered learning to build communication skills in a graduate-level nanotechnology course offered in a department of mechanical engineering. In the course, students develop presentations as a means of understanding current trends, emerging research topics, relevant applications, and fundamental science and technology concepts related to nanotechnology.


The aim of this research is to determine the efficacy of peer presentations in a graduate-level engineering course as a means to more effectively engage students with course concepts while providing opportunities to practice critical thinking and presentation skills Methodology Using thematic analysis, we analyzed student responses to five open-ended questions as part of a seven-question survey given twice at the end of the spring 2019 and fall 2019 semesters.


Peer presentations can guide students in developing and articulating their own, novel interpretation of the learning materials. Guided reflection further engages students with the material by "forcing" them to pay close attention to the presenter to answer the questions.


The results of this research thus far point to student-centered learning as an effective means of teaching critical reading and presentation skills. However, the variation in perceptions between predominantly undergraduate and predominantly graduate course enrollment indicates a need for deeper inquiry into the ways academic maturity affects those participants.

Publication Title

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access