This is the second paper in a four-part series focused on a competency-based approach for personalized education in a group setting. In the first paper, we focus on identifying the competencies and meta-competencies required for the 21st century engineers. In this paper, we provide an overview of an approach to developing competencies needed for the fast changing world and allowing the students to be in charge of their own learning. The approach fosters “learning how to learn” in a collaborative environment. We believe that two of the core competencies required for success in the dynamically changing workplace are the abilities to identify and manage dilemmas. In the third paper, we discuss our approach for helping students learn how to identify dilemmas in the context of an energy policy design problem. The fourth paper is focused on approaches to developing the competency to manage dilemmas associated with the realization of complex, sustainable, socio-techno-eco systems.

The approach is presented in the context of a graduate-level course jointly offered at University of Oklahoma, Norman and Washington State University, Pullman during Fall 2011. The students were asked to identify the competencies needed to be successful at creating value in a culturally diverse, distributed engineering world at the beginning of the semester. The students developed these competencies by completing various assignments designed to collaboratively answer a Question for Semester (Q4S). The Q4S was focused on identifying and managing dilemmas associated with energy policy and the next generation bridging fuels. A unique aspect of this course is the collaborative structure in which students completed these assignments individually, in university groups and in collaborative university teams. The group and team structures were developed to ultimately aid individual learning. The details of the answer to the Q4S are elaborated in the other three papers which address identifying and managing dilemmas, specifically related to Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) policy and bridging fuels.

The fundamental principles of our approach include a shift in the role of the instructor to orchestrators of learning, shift in the role of students to active learners, providing opportunities to learn, shift in focus from lower levels to upper levels of learning, creation of learning communities, embedding flexibility in courses, leveraging diversity, making students aware of the learning process, and scaffolding. Building on our experience in the course, we discuss specific ways to foster the development of learning organizations within classroom settings. Additionally, we present techniques for scaffolding the learning activities in a distributed classroom based on systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, a shared vision, and team learning. The approach enables personalized learning of individuals in a group setting.

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