Air crash investigation: A problem-based learning approach to develop study and employability skills


The course team devised a crash investigation exercise, in which students work in groups to understand why an air crash has taken place, based on the data they are provided with. The exercise unfolds in real time, with students gaining access to data incrementally over a period of weeks.


Link to Education Strategy Pillars

  • Creativity and enterprise
  • Embedded employability
  • Research inspired teaching



  1. Students embarking on aerospace-related courses need to be able to solve real-world problems, using their own initiative and working out how to ask the right questions. They also need to get used to working in groups from an early stage. Developing all of these skills is crucial for learners to succeed in their studies, as well as in the aviation industry. The course team wanted to find a way to enable students to engage with these ways of working from day one.



By undertaking this exercise at the start of their course, students become better prepared for university study (e.g. undertaking group work), as well as learning about the aviation industry and its procedures. The exercise has been successfully implemented with several cohorts of students, and has provided the basis for research outputs by the course team. Moreover, employers very much value the practi- cal insights which graduates of these courses gain during their studies at Coventry, and problem-based learning exercises such as this are invaluable in facilitating these.

Student Feedback

“[It] was a great experience as it removed the uncom- fortable and nervous first introductions to a group of strangers while relating it to a real life situation”


“I saw the benefits of working with other students more than I have before. [...] Helping others understand the work inevitably gives you a deeper understanding of the content”


Top Tips

  • It was initially labour intensive for staff to set up the exercise; however, this has certainly paid off in the long run, as the exercise has been replicated numerous times.
  • It is important for staff to provide some structure to the exercise, and to anticipate students’ needs (e.g. preparing in advance the types of material that they would be likely to request).