A very interesting couple of days at the 7th International Symposium of Engineering Education down at UCL. Here’s something I found interesting which I am sharing with colleagues and collaborators.

Bridging teaching and research by re-thinking scholarship

Professor Dilly Fung, LSE, gave a very thought-provoking opening lecture on bridging the gap between research and teaching by considering the more encompassing term scholarship.

Reference text, Scholarship Reconsidered, by Ernest Boyer.

Teaching is a demanding endeavour involving analogies, metaphors and images that build bridges between the teacher’s understanding and the student’s learning.

There are historic inequalities and misconceptions that can reinforce the gap between research and teaching.
Gender: teaching associated with caring, more feminine roles; research associated with understanding and controlling, more masculine.
Class: association of industry with working class and research with middle class.
Key message here is that we need to challenge the inequalities in the roles we all have to make engineering education richer for all

Concept of ‘Bildung’, from hermeneutics, translates from the German roughly into:
-Self-formation through authentic dialogue with others
-Widening of intellectual and cultural horizons

What kind of knowledge will make a difference and influence one’s life as an exciting being? We should view eduaciton first as a question of being responsible in our role as a member of society?

Creating a connected curriculum

This is about creating stronger links between research and teaching.

  1. Students connect with researchers and with the instituion’s research. Students know much less than faculty think about what research is going on. How can students get regular opportunities to connect wth the researches?
  2. Create a through line of research of activity through programme. Think about how research can become a reality. How can students pose their own research questions, and learn from the research that is being done?
  3. Build interdiscplinarity. There are few jobs that require one discipline.
  4. Connect academic learning with workplace learning.
  5. Students leaning to produce outputs directed at an audience. Who has a stake in this knowledge? How can I communicate this knowledge to a range of people. It adds a huge boost to student motication to know that what they are doing is relevant to others.
  6. Students connect with each other, across phases, and with alumni.

Strength-based scholarship

How can we build on what you are good at? Play to our strengths, our values, be authentic and engage with people better. How do we do this?
  1. Broadbe our horizons through dialogue with other perspectives,
  2. Draw on existing expertise
  3. Use authentic modes of enquiry.

How can we let students bring their own identity into the learning, instead of being sanitised?

This is was a fascinating discussion. Important to consider how we restrict student’s learning by only allowing them to see how the learning can be applied in a limited set of job roles/identiies. How can we create a learning environment in which students bring their own identify in, and allow them to conceive for themselves a future role that suits them based on who they are, their values and their skills?

One suggestion is to create a programme-wide showcase portfolio (Fung 2017) Towards the end of their degree, students:

  1. Select their outward-facing work, to demonstrate programme learning outcomes, an introduce it to an external audience.
  2. Revisit and learn from freedback on their work, including feedback from peer and external audiences/partners.
  3. Develop a holistic, analytical picture of the ground covered on the programme
  4. Develop a stronger sense overall fo the discipline(s) and the ways in which themes relate to one another and to their own activity
  5. Articulate explicitly the perspectives and skills underpinning the range of work presented.

How alumni get involved at Strathclyde

Presentation from Mike Murray. In civil engineering at Strathclyde they have an impressive programme of alumni engagement in undergraduate engineering.

621 students are put into groups of 3-4. There are 135 industry mentors from 49 employers. The groups visit their mentors in the workplace, and then write up their experiences in a piece of coursework that mimics ICE professional competency report.

One of the unexpected outcomes is that students get to find out much more about the many sub-disciplines that exist within the subject.

Mike also talked about their Civil Engineering For Real programme (CE4R), in which alumni come in and run evening briefing sessions on real projects they are working on, bringing in real artefacts from projects.

By the time the students reach their fourth year, they have had more industry experience than the majority of the academic staff.

Ipsative feedback on the IEP at UCL

Mentioned by Emmanuela Tilley in her presentation on the Integrated Engineering Education Programme at UCL, Ipsative Feedback measures progress against personal development, not pre-determined levels.

More on Ipsative feedback here. This sort of feedback is applied in the marking of team work on design projects. At each successive ‘design crit’, instructors and learners are looking for progress since the last session, rather than meeting a specific level.

Solving the problems of tomorrow

Fascinating presentation from Richard Lillington, Warwick, called ‘Engineering education has a problem: how do we teach our students about the technology of tomorrow when it hasn’t been invented yet?

At Warwick, the university started inviting former practitioners in to start reshaping and running the engineering course.

Key question – what do our students think engineering is? The answer, they don’t know. So there is a great chance to help shape that vision. [NB it wasn’t clear to me if this meant instructors should transmit their view of engineering to the students, or whether this should be something students find out for themselves].

Concpet of a ‘core for all’, that should enable students to tackle any problem. Key elements:

  1. Instill confidence to try and try again.
  2. Develop feel, confidence to make decisions – authenticity. Feel is really really important.
  3. Build an engineering voaculary and an ability to communicate in a range of situations. If industry is becoming more interdisciplinary, they need a wide vocabulary.
Tension between general and discipline-specific.
There are only so many physical laws. they apply to everything. it is a question of scale.
Commonality builds confidence in ability to solve any problem.
Boundaries are arguably just historical.
Some common skills are handling data, programming. Easy to each, but easy to ignore.
Inter-disciplinary skills are critical: big advances are where disciplines merge.
Of great importance: equality, parity, fairness of stream-specifc teaching.
Only then can we give students a truly rounded perspective of engineering.
Not only but also:
  1. physics vs maths.
  2. How do you teach invention and creativity. hard to teach and mark and is overlooked. give engineers multiple changes to indulge in play.
  3. money – if engineers don’t make money they don’t do it for long. they have to understand money.
Where do you even start?
  • school has many active stakeholders.
  • students – tell us what does and doesn’t work in their education, and ask them how to fix it.
  • consult staff.
  • industry panel – make it diverse, recent grads,  find out what was good in the degree
Create heat map of learning outcomes – see where the course is strong and weak, see where there is too much emphasis on one thing over another.
[Interestingly, Richard didn’t mention teaching actual problem-solving skills. When I asked this, he said problem-solving was implicit in the course. My feeling is that you need to look for the examplarity in the problem-solving process, otherwise you just learn how to solve the kind of problem studied].
Sutdents see value. They choose to come to uni. Most will engage with something interesting/challenging to engage with.