There are many terms in currency around the education world which display ambiguity of meaning. This is an attempt to define a vocabulary which clarifies at least what is meant when we use a word or phrase of jargon in the context of engineering education.  The following list is alphabetical: no further significance is intended by the order of terms.


The study and theories associated with how children learn (see andragogy). Pedagogy is often used (erroneously) to refer also to learning by adults.


A portfolio is a collection of examples of student work – either or both electronic or physical – which can be used by the student or graduate to illustrate their capabilities.


Engineering teaching is expected to be informed by practitioners, whether these be from industry, academe, commerce or elsewhere in society. Students are therefore encouraged to practice both their engineering and inter-personal skills.


A module may specify that the student must have completed a pre-requisite module before being allowed to register. Pre-requisites may be necessary but the use of them restricts the number of available student pathways.

problem-based learning (PBL)

Problem-based learning, at its most straightforward, involves posing a question (usually but not always open-ended) to a group of students who are provided with resources and a facilitator, but no lectures. It is widely used in medical education. PBL is often confused with project based learning.


There is almost universal agreement that problem solving is a central skill for an engineer.  It is however extremely difficult to define the characteristics of problems appropriate to undergraduate engineers at each stage of their development.  This may require further study and debate.


Programme is the preferred term to describe all the activities and learning – usually spread over several years – which culminate in the award of a degree.

project based learning (PjBL)

Project-based learning is often confused (or conflated) with problem-based learning and both usually carry the acronym PBL, although Graham (2010), in a very comprehensive report, has coined the abbreviation PjBL.