Social Learning and Project-Based Learning at University

Complexity and non-linear approaches to cognitive diversity and diverse levels of physics learners


  • Manuel A. B. Bache University of Sevilla, HUM-962


Physics Curricula, PBL, Cellular Automata Learning, Non-linear and Complexity Approaches, Systems Theory, PALS, Inclusive Pedagogy, Diversity in Higher Education


Since Piaget’s proposals about cognitive learning and constructivism (Piaget, 1976), active methodologies were proposed (Johnson et al., 1984) with two main trends appearing: participative systems in learning and education (Moench, 1986), and cooperative structures (Johnson et al., 1984; Kagan, 1989). At the time, a counteractive theory of motivation appeared, emerging an organismic theory called Theory of Autodetermination (TAD), which proposed that students and learners strive for self-regulated learning and self-determination in their goals and learning-process (Deci & Ryan, 1985).

Currently, active methodologies and teamwork are frequently used in science education (de Los Rios et al., 2010; Jo, 2011; Lipson et al., 2007; Torio, 2019), as well as cooperative learning (Lipson et al., 2007; Torio, 2019). However, in this case, our context was a highly diverse classroom, in cognitive styles, and also in levels of prior knowledge in the subject-matter, with some students on the spectrum of high functioning neurodiversity (Grandin, & Duffy, 2008). 67 students participated in a participatory-action-research (PAR), where the teacher was a conductor towards task-oriented, self-regulated and cooperative-collaborative PALS (peer-assisted) learning.

Social learning and cooperative learning was mainly implemented for practical-technical classes, and for the completion of a project-based learning (PBL) long term project (full-term), but it was also subsequently implemented into theory classes, forming a complex system consisting of two systems, one multi-nodal of small groups PBL and Kagan's structures, and one one-node complex system. Being a mixed system, the outcomes were expected to be nonlinear enriched learning, and a wider scope of application of the information, which was mainly generated by the students, with the teacher as a lecturer (at first), becoming a leader for a while; and a challenger and a promoter finally (and all the time for some students). The behavior of the system(s) was interesting from a qualitative point of view. But the outcomes exceeded the expectations.


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Jo, I. H. (2011). Effects of role division, interaction, and shared mental model on team performance in project-based learning environment. Asia Pacific Education Review, 12(2), 301-310.

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Lipson, A., Epstein, A. W., Bras, R., & Hodges, K. (2007). Students’ perceptions of Terrascope, a project-based freshman learning community. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 16(4), 349-364.

Moench, T. T. (1986). The Participative Learning System. Journal of College Science Teaching, 15(5), 437-439.

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Torío, H. (2019). Teaching as coaching: Experiences with a video-based flipped classroom combined with project-based approach in technology and physics higher education. Journal of Technology and Science Education, 9(3), 404-419.

Author Biography

Manuel A. B. Bache, University of Sevilla, HUM-962

Department of Biomechanics, “Fco. Maldonado” University College, University of Sevilla, Osuna, Sevilla,41640, Spain

HUM-962, University of Sevilla, Sevilla, 41013, Spain