Getting started in Engineering Learning & Teaching: My top five articles

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Introduction

It can be a daunting task for someone getting into engineering learning and teaching to identify the papers they need to read in order to get started. At a minimum, I presume that the colleague who is starting out needs a brief overview of the history of engineering education so as to get some grounding in the field. They might also need something on learning and teaching methods in engineering that is easy to read, is reasonably up to date and has proven itself over the years. Then they might want some concrete proof of what works and what doesn’t work in practice. They might also want to know why learning and teaching practices might need to be reformed, and getting this evidence, they might also be looking to hear from someone who has actually been involved in some engineering education reform and lived to tell the tale. In this blog piece I provide 5 articles that will go some way to providing answers to these question.

Goodhew, P. (2014). Teaching Engineering. All you need to know about engineering education but were too afraid to ask. Royal Academy of Engineering. Available at: http://www.goodhew.co.uk/GoodhewTeachingEngineeringDec14plus.pdf

This book, written by an engineering educator who has been at the coalface of engineering education reform for the past two decades, has been freely available in one form or another since 2010. It provides concise coverage of the key topics in engineering learning and teaching, and for this reason it is ideal for the reader who wishes to catch up quickly with current trends in the field.

Passow, H. J., & Passow, C. H. (2017). What competencies should undergraduate engineering programs emphasize? A systematic review. Journal of Engineering Education106(3), 475-526. https://doi.org/10.1002/jee.20171

Research into engineering learning and teaching has only recently begun to move on from a stage where the bulk of published material is from practitioners reporting about their own experiences within the classroom. Most of this work produces outcomes that are difficult to replicate in different settings., In contrast, this paper uses the systematic review approach to investigate and identify what works and what does not work within engineering learning and teaching. By definition, a systematic literature review is a comprehensive, transparent search for evidence that is conducted over multiple sources from multiple databases to identify outcomes and results that have been replicated and reproduced by many researchers. This means that findings from this study are more likely to be replicable and therefore to be more valuable to both researchers and the practitioners.

Froyd, J. E., Wankat, P. C., & Smith, K. A. (2012). Five major shifts in 100 years of engineering education. Proceedings of the IEEE100(Special Centennial Issue), 1344-1360. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/6185632

A common inclination amongst those of us privileged enough to be actively engaged in the current phase of engineering education reform is to assume that learning and teaching methods in engineering have remained static until now. History says otherwise. This paper takes the reader through the five epochs of engineering education reform that have taken place in the USA. Other countries have gone through similar experiences, although the details may differ here and there. Being aware of historical trends is important as it helps reformers to be on the lookout for any potential pitfalls in their practice.

Trevelyan, J. (2007). Technical coordination in engineering practice. Journal of Engineering Education96(3), 191-204. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2168-9830.2007.tb00929.x

A longstanding accusation brought against engineering education is that there is a disjunction between what is taught in engineering school and what graduate engineers are required to do when they move into the engineering workplace. This paper reports the outcomes of a study carried out to identify the engineering skills, attitude and technical knowledge that really matter in the workplace. The paper therefore provides the engineering educator with something to work toward as they prepare their students for the engineering workplace.  

Mitchell, J.E., Nyamapfene, A., Roach, K. and Tilley, E. (2021) Faculty wide curriculum reform: the integrated engineering programme, European Journal of Engineering Education, 46:1, 48-66. https://doi.org/10.1080/03043797.2019.1593324

Few education reformers have the opportunity to design institutional engineering curriculum completely from scratch. Instead, most reformers must work from a live engineering curriculum with real students on it, and with educators who are committed to it. This has its own challenges. This paper gives the reader insights on how a well-established research institution went about reforming its engineering curriculum.

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