Learning Objectives for an Engineering for Educators Course

Weekly Writing 6 – Lori Sowa

I am finding the Fink text (2013) to be an excellent guide for developing the Engineering for Educators course.   Many times I have lamented the fact that I simply don’t have enough time to holistically plan my courses before I step into the classroom, and to include innovative and engaging activities during each class period.   In reality, I end up teaching a course much as I had learned it the first time, and then each year making adjustments, adding projects, changing assessments – improving the course incrementally over time.   As I gain years of experience and confidence with new teaching methods, the changes occur more quickly.   The opportunity (challenge?) of looking at this course in-depth prior to teaching it for the first time is refreshing.

The value of the taxonomies of learning for me are the validation of the importance of the “soft skills” (which really are the most important skills) and moving beyond traditional content.     Learning how to learn, appreciating the human element, and the importance of that human element, were not explicitly discussed in any of my courses throughout college.   The engineering curriculum is extremely content heavy, and not much time is spent on anything else.   Successful students figured it out how to “get through it” on their own (perhaps most often through role models and expectations at home), the others did not.

Reading through the three taxonomies, I most easily identified with Fink’s taxonomy for significant learning. I appreciate the fact that it is not hierarchical, but instead inter-related.   While there is certainly an order to learning complex content material, and solid foundational knowledge is required to build up to sophisticated engineering design, the other aspects – human dimension and caring, for example, can provide the motivation to put in the hard work required to understand and master the hard math and science.

I don’t expect my students to become expert engineers after completing this one course.   I think that not identifying as an engineer may provide significant hesitation for educators without an academic background in engineering who are asked to teach engineering in their classrooms.   I certainly would have a hard time if someone expected me to inspire my students to be anthropologists, or political scientists – as I don’t see myself in this role, nor do I have direct experience in these roles.   What I hope to accomplish in my course, then, is to provide teachers with the tools so they can work towards becoming experts at recognizing engineering applications and implementing meaningful engineering projects in their classrooms.   Perhaps the key is to allow them flexibility to choose a topic they are familiar with, interested in, and have a level of confidence in the content to adapt to an engineering project for use in their classroom for their first assignment.

I used PowerPoint to create a concept map for my course based on Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning (p. 34-37).

Concept Map for EfE course

The taxonomy was quite useful in outlining important concepts and learning goals for the course.   One aspect of learning that I hope to achieve in my students (and eventually, their students) that I did not find a place for, though, were developing characteristics such as grit, resilience, not being afraid of failure, focus, and developing a good work ethic.   The would most closely align with learning how to learn.

Based upon this concept map, I have developed the following three learning objectives for my lesson plan for this course:

1. Identify and understand the components of the engineering design cycle

2. Use the engineering design cycle to create active learning opportunities in their classrooms that are age-appropriate, engaging, linked to content knowledge, and that address state and national standards

3. Understand the engineer’s role in society, and inspire a desire in students to use engineering to solve problems that matter to people.

These are lofty but worthwhile objectives that I would love to accomplish in my course.

Fink, L. D. (2013).  Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

 

3 thoughts on “Learning Objectives for an Engineering for Educators Course

  1. Owen

    Hi Lori,

    This part, “I don’t expect my students to become expert engineers after completing this one course. …. What I hope to accomplish in my course, then, is to provide teachers with the tools so they can work towards becoming experts at recognizing engineering applications and implementing meaningful engineering projects in their classrooms.” Gave me pause. I think you’re onto some very valuable insights here. It seems one of the biggest services we can offer students is helping them “try on the hat” of various lines of inquiry and occupation. It sounds to me that you’re hoping to help teachers model being an engineer, or even putting students in the role of being an engineer – using that perspective.

    When you say, “understand the engineers role in society” – what better way to understand that than to actually experience it – even if in sort of a reduced or play-like mode? For #2 – you might consider using the term “Apply”… Identify, Apply and Empathize? I like the spectrum.

    You’re off to a strong start.

    -owen

    Reply
  2. Bob

    “One aspect of learning that I hope to achieve in my students (and eventually, their students) that I did not find a place for, though, were developing characteristics such as grit, resilience, not being afraid of failure, focus, and developing a good work ethic.”

    This is beautiful and difficult work that is never done. It is work that I too am trying to do though in a very different venue. Please keep trying to include this. It matters not only to teachers and pupils but to the rest of us. I look for evidence of these skills/attributes in our student employees. I also try to build it into their experiences in our workplace.

    We address it in-part through our expectations about reliability in the workplace. Likewise a steady stream of feedback (two positives to each negative). That said our work is not hard in the way that creative pursuits are so we cannot teach all of this. But then neither can you — rather these are developed from life-lessons and experience and so at best we, you and I, are part of a persons learning but never all of it.

    Reply
  3. Jenny

    Lori,
    I can relate to your opening statement that you typically “don’t have enough time to holistically plan my courses before I step into the classroom.” Your plan, so far, appears to be a far cry from historical teaching methods and appears to be very engaging and applied. One possible suggestion for a reflective exercise, might be to have teachers go through their curriculum and suggest areas where engineering activities could be added.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *