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Successfully submitted in part fulfilment of the requirements of the M.A. (Masters) Third Level Learning and Teaching to the Dublin Institute of Technology in 2010.


Using an Action Research methodology, this study was based in Dublin Institute of Technology and conducted with the cooperation of three groups of Phase Six Plumbing apprentices over a ten-month period (three cycles). The main aim of the research project was to establish if a deeper understanding and application of Building Services Applied Calculations could be achieved through the implementation of Project-Based Learning within Apprenticeship Education? Research literature shows that not only in Ireland but also abroad, third level education is experiencing what is described as a ‘maths problem’. With applied calculations and mathematics being a fundamental and essential part of Building Services Engineering in general, and also the FÁS phase six plumbing curriculum, many students are failing module examinations because of an inadequate understanding of basic mathematical principles. The question was examined through the design, implementation and evaluation of real world plumbing mathematical tasks and problems applied within a project dwelling. The mathematical calculations also followed closely, the level of mathematical competency required within the FÁS phase six plumbing curriculum for compulsory end of term summative assessments. The research was underpinned by a genuine commitment to enhance the learning experience of my students and also for personal professional improvement and self-development. The qualitative data gathered and analysed from questionnaires, focus groups, observational diaries and reflective diaries culminated in findings to show that this learning paradigm significantly improved the mathematical competence, understanding, motivation and confidence of those participating in the research. Noticeable improvements in other key skills such as group participation, reflective learning, and self-assessment also emerged through this pedagogical implementation. The main recommendations arising from the study are that a form of student-centred learning such as project-based learning aligned to continuous and formative assessments could be used to better reflect projects and problems typical of those found in real life craft working situations. This allows students to work on and understand meaningful issues and topics where they find real solutions to real problems