Research-based learning as a strategy for the integration of theory and practice and the development of disciplinary competencies in engineering
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© 2019, Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature.Research-based learning (RBL) enhances the integration of different abilities and strengthens the students¿ research skills. As a result, the students are actively involved in a real research project, which allows them to use and to correlate theoretical concepts to real needs in their occupational field. In this work, a course was redesigned by integrating two courses: one theoretical and one laboratory course of Enzymology and Biocatalysis, which belong to the academic plan of the biotechnology engineering career. Volunteer students who met the established requirements were selected and grouped into approximately four teams per semester. A research project was assigned to each team with a co-advisor, who was the person responsible for defining the research objectives. The course content was modularized in order to provide theoretical concepts along with the experimental activities required by their project. As a result of the strategy, students participating in the integrated course evidenced a significantly higher performance as measured by the final grades and failure percentage (91.13 ± 5.6 in general grade average and 0%, respectively). Some specific technical and transversal competencies were documented, showing a higher level of dominion and course satisfaction level, as expressed in a final survey. Through RBL strategy, students were able to generate experimental data and develop competencies for knowledge acquisition, a higher commitment level and improved research skills. All these, in turn, could make a significant difference in their performance and integration to the occupational field.