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).
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.