UA | College of Engineering
EC2000 criteria have caused a major rethinking of engineering education. To date most of the creative work has focused on the assessment aspects -- establishing goals, objectives, and outcomes, identifying assessment tools, and defining feedback mechanisms. In contrast, the development of classroom material for newly emphasized skills and technology related knowledge, as defined in the Criteria 3, Items (a) through (k), has received little or no attention. Since engineering faculty are untrained, inexperienced, and thus, uncomfortable for this type instruction, they will need considerable help in modifying the curriculum in order to meet these criteria. The EC2000 guidelines require that engineering students develop a set of skills and, perhaps more importantly, that programs demonstrate that their graduates have acquired these skills. Specified skills include design, experimental, problem solving, teaming, communication, learning, ethical interpretation, an impact identification skills. Traditionally, engineering courses have focused on technical content and presumed that students developed these skills, sometimes called "processing skills", by working with the technical content and by observing the instructor working with it in the classroom. Educational research, along with many anecdotal reports from industry, indicates the ineffectiveness of this ad hoc approach. Because EC2000 requires an assessment process that demonstrates acquisition of these processing skills, engineering programs must ensure that their curriculum includes instruction and practice in these skills.
Need For EC2000 Instructional Modules
Since most engineering curricula do not have room for additional courses on processing skills, programs must add components on specific skills to existing courses. Further support for this approach comes from educational research that indicates that students learn processing skills much better when they are taught in a technical context as a part of a standard engineering course than when they are taught in stand-alone courses. Since most engineering faculty have little or no experience in teaching processing skills, efficient and effective instruction in these skills will require well-designed instructional material that is not widely available at the present time. These new instructional material should include classroom material, student assignments and, most importantly, a guide for instructors.
University of Alabama’s EC2000 Instructional Modules
A University of Alabama team is developing a set of instructional modules on several processing skills. The team defined a set of module specifications to guide the development of these modules. These specifications require that module take a week of classes, serve several curricula, require minimal facilities and instructor investment; that they follow a standard format and use active/cooperative learning; that they include justification material, learning objectives, assessment tools, and student assignments, including bridge assignments that connect the skill with the technical content in the course.
References for Further Information
- D. Woods et al. (1997) Developing Problem Solving Skills: The McMaster Problem Solving Program, J. Eng. Ed. 86:75-91
Abstract: This paper describes a 25-year project in which we defined problem solving, identified effective methods for developing students skill in problem solving, implemented a series of four required courses to develop the skill, and evaluated the effectiveness of the program. Four research projects are summarized in which we identified which teaching methods failed to develop problem solving skill and which methods were successful in developing the skills. We found that students need both comprehension of Chemical Engineering and what we call general problem solving skill to solve problems successfully. We identified 37 general problem solving skills. We use 120 hours of workshops spread over four required courses to develop the skills. Each skill is built (using content-independent activities), bridged (to apply the skill in the content-specific domain of Chemical Engineering) and extended (to use the skill in other contexts and contents and in everyday life). The tests and examinations of process skills, TEPS, that assess the degree to which the students can apply the skills are described. We illustrate how self-assessment was used.
- D. Woods, R. Felder, A Rugarcia and J. Stice, Future of Engineering Education III Developing Critical Skills, Chem. Eng. Ed. 34:108-117, 2000.
Abstract: In third paper in the series we consider the application of some of those methods to the development of the desired skills. Process skills are soft skills used in the application of knowledge. The degree to which students develop these skills determines how they solve problems, write reports, function in teams, self-assess and do performance reviews of others, go about learning new knowledge, and manage stress when they have to cope with change. Many instructors intuitively believe that process skills are important, but most are unaware of the fundamental research that provides a foundation for development of the skills. Their efforts to help their students develop the skills may consequently be less effective than they might wish.
Fostering the development of skills in students is challenging, to say the least. Process skillswhich have to do with attitudes and values as much as knowledgeare particularly challenging in that they are hard to define explicitly, let alone to develop and assess. We might be able to sense that a team is not working well, for example, but how do we make that intuitive judgment quantitative? How might we provide feedback that is helpful to the team members? How can we develop our students confidence in their teamwork skills?
Research done over the past 30 years offers answers to these questions. In this paper, we suggest research-backed methods to help our students develop critical skills and the confidence to apply them. As was the case for the instructional methods discussed in introduced in Part II,3 all of the suggestions given in this part are relevant to engineering education, can be implemented within the context of the ordinary engineering classroom, are not the sorts of methods that most engineering professors would feel uncomfortable doing, are consistent with modern theories of learning, and have been tried and found effective by more than one educator.
Research suggests that the development of any skill is best facilitated by giving students practice and not by simply talking about or demonstrating what to do. The instructors role is primarily that of a coach, encouraging the students to achieve the target attitudes and skills and providing constructive feedback on their efforts. A number of approaches to process skill development have been formulated and proven to be effective in science and engineering education, including Guided Design, active/cooperative learning approaches, Thinking- Aloud Pairs Problem Solving (TAPPS) and the McMaster Problem Solving program.
- Seat, E. and Lord, S. (1999) Enabling Effective Engineering Teams: A Program For Teaching Interaction Skills, J. Eng. Ed. 88:385-390.
Abtract: A program for teaching interaction skills to engineers and engineering students has been developed. Based on cognitive style theory, this customized program uses the typical engineers problem solving strengths to teach skills of interviewing, questioning, exchanging ideas, and managing conflict. The goal of this program is to enable these problem solvers to apply their technical skills more effectively by improving interpersonal interactions. The modular nature of the training program makes it easily transportable, and all or part of it can be used in courses that require students to work in teams. This paper discusses what makes this training a good fit with engineering students, the background for its content, and the programs six modules. Personal experiences with teaching this material and recommendations for implementation are discussed. Similarities and differences between teaching the engineering professional and student, themes of student perceptions about the training, and future directions are also addressed.
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