The following articles all appeared in the Spring, 1998 issue of Success 101.
This is the fifth issue of Success 101. Its purpose is to provide a forum for engineering faculty and administrators, engineering student service staff, and minority engineering program staff to share ideas about conducting an Introduction to Engineering course that will significantly enhance engineering students success. Articles which appeared in the first four issues of Success 101 can be found on the Discovery Press web page: www.discovery-press.com.
It is my sense that we are making significant progress in moving engineering education from the "sink or swim"/"weed them out" paradigm to one of "student develop-ment."
From 1991-94, I administered a National Science Foundation Course and Curriculum Development grant entitled "Improving Student Success Through a Model Introduction to Engineering Course." My first action was to establish a baseline on such courses by sending a survey to all engineering colleges. The survey sought to answer questions like: Do you have an Introduction to Engineering course? Is it college-wide or departmentalized? How many credit hours? What are the course objectives? How much time do you spend on various topics?
Completed surveys were obtained from ninety-two percent of the 270 universities surveyed, providing a comprehensive baseline. From the data received, I was unable to locate a single required freshman engineering course that had a primary focus on student development and student success.
Most "Introduction to Engineering" courses described covered content-oriented and skills-building topics such as computing, graphics, engineering design, creativity, and problem solving. A few were of the more traditional "Introduction to Engineering" courses, which were limited primarily to exposing students to the various engineering disciplines.
I look forward to repeating the same survey in a few years. I am confident that it will reflect the significant change I sense is occurring.
The signs are everywhere. Strong impetus for this change has come from funding by the National Science Foundation for the revision of lower-division curriculum in engineering. ABET Engineering Criteria 2000 has led us to move the development of "soft skills" into the first year curriculum so students can refine those skills for their career while utilizing them in achieving success in engineering study.
Articles on the efficacy of "student success" courses for first-year engineering students are appearing with greater frequency in the Journal of Engineering Education and ASEE PRISM, and more are on the way. In the first three academic years since its publication, over 30,000 copies of Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career have been adopted at more than 300 institutions, with a growing number using it for their entire freshman class. We have had overwhelming response to our NSF-sponsored Chautauqua short course "Enhancing Student Success Through a Model Introduction to Engineering Course." In the past two-and-a-half years, almost 250 participants have attended the three-day training in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh.
I hope that you will join this exciting movement within engineering education. Through it, we can ensure that our students maximize their potential and reap the rewards and opportunities graduation in engineering will bring to them. Our students will benefit and so will we.
So What is Engineering?
by Kate Gibney
[Note: Reprinted by Permission from ASEE PRISM, March, 1998, Ó1998 American Society for Engineering Education]
An innovative new course introduces high school teachers and guidance counselors to basic information about the engineering profession.
How much do high school teachers and guidance counselors really know about engineering? Not enough, according to Raymond Landis, engineering and technology dean at California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State L.A.). While touring local high schools, Landis encountered a fair share of teachers who felt unqualified to discuss engineering in the classroom. As one physics teacher commented, I must have 80 students a year who think that they want to be engineers, yet I know nothing of what engineers do. He also found many counselors who believed a similar lack of knowledge kept them from steering students toward the field.
Landiss solution to this problem is to offer secondary school teachers and counselors a course specifically designed to answer the question: So whats engineering?
In December 1996, Landis approached the Los Angeles-based ARCO Foundation with a proposal for such a course. Called Introduction to Engineering for High School Teachers and Counselors, it had three basic goals: 1) to give participants a broad overview of engineering, highlighting its various disciplines and industrial sectors; 2) to outline the different aspects of the engineering education process, including the course of study and the desired level of student preparation; and 3) to introduce new ways of working with students to promote effective time management, positive peer interaction, and other learning
strategies important for success in engineering school. The proposal sought support for a three-day summer offering and a 10-week fall session of the class. Teachers and counselors who completed the fall course would accrue two college credits.
ARCO gave Cal State L.A. $22,000 to implement the proposal. That funding covered participants registration fees, textbooks, and class materials, and enabled the university to offer attendees a $150 stipend to help defray travel expenses.
The Summer Pilot
Twenty-nine area high school teachers and counselors attended the summer session. During three hectic days in July, they toured several Cal State L.A. engineering facilities, including the automated manufacturing lab. They also participated in panel discussions with practicing engineers, who described the work they did and fielded educators questions, and attended a series of presentations by Landis and other professors. These presentations focused on how to use the Internet to access guidance materials about engineering, addressed the importance of technology, outlined projected engineering employment needs, and introduced a variety of learning strategies highlighted in Landiss book Studying Engineering that teachers could use to improve student performance. Landis reports that while the visits to the universitys Solar Eagle car lab and the panel discussion with working engineers were by far the most popular activities, attendees indicated that what they would use the most were the learning strategies.
The Fall Pilot
Upon the suggestion of several summer participants, Landis added a panel discussion with engineering students and a session with industry representatives to the fall course offering, which attracted 15 participants. The success of the fall session on the heels of the productive summer offering convinced Landis to repeat both classes next year. He has approached ARCO with a proposal for additional funding and for the moment is concentrating on developing strategies to stimulate enrollment.
Because high school teachers and counselors often heavily influence students decisions about what major to pursue in college, Landis thinks that promoting greater awareness about engineering among them will help undercut the recent downturn in enrollments at California engineering schools. (The number of first-year engineering majors in California four-year institutions dropped from 9,244 in fall 1982 to 7,534 in fall 1994.) The courses success could also serve another, larger purpose by influencing other engineering colleges to use a similar strategy to improve career guidance in engineering in high schools in their area, he says.
For more information, contact Ray Landis at (213) 343-4500; fax (213) 343-4555; e-mail: [email protected]
Kate Gibney is assistant editor of ASEE PRISM.
Multiple Choice Exams
Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career
Ray Landis has prepared three 25- question multiple choice exams for instructors to use with his textbook Studying Engineering. The first exam covers Chapters 1 and 2; the second exam covers Chapters 3 and 4; and the third exam covers Chapters 5 and 6.
Although essay and short answer exams would be more effective in measuring students comprehension and retention of the material in the text, the multiple choice exams provide a tool for the instructor to use (without excessive grading time demands) in motivating students to take assignments to read the text seriously.
To receive copies of the three exams and solution keys, send your name, title, and mailing address to: [email protected]
CALL FOR PAPERS
ASEE Freshman Programs Division
The Freshman Programs Division is seeking papers for the 1999 ASEE Annual Conference to be held June 20-23, 1999 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Topics should focus on educational activities associated with first-year engineering students. The division will consider papers in the following topic areas: computer and computer software use in instruction; advising and orientation programs; creative problem-solving courses; innovative approaches to first-year engineering education; project-based learning and hands-on courses; retention programs; pre-college programs and linkages with K-12 education; recruitment programs; and integrating design into the freshman year. Submit a one-page abstract by September 30, 1998 to Michael Gregg, Virginia Tech, Engineering Fundamentals Division, College of Engineering, Blacksburg, VA 24061 (Telephone: (540) 231-9544; Fax: (540) 231-6903; E-mail: [email protected]).
Meet the Authors
ASEE ANNUAL CONFERENCE IN SEATTLE
Come visit us (Steve Cheshier, Ray Landis, and Marty Roden) at the Discovery Press booth (#419) in the Exhibit Hall at the ASEE Annual Conference, June 29-July 1, 1998 in Seattle, Washington. We would be pleased to talk with you about our three texts Studying Engineering Technology: A Blueprint for Success by Stephen R. Cheshier, Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career by R. B. Landis and Electronic Design: From Concept to Reality, Third Edition by M. Roden and G. Carpenter.
You are also invited to attend Session #2653. In this session, sponsored by the ASEE Freshman Programs Division, Ray Landis will present a paper entitled, "Enhancing Engineering Student Success: Working With Students to Change Their Attitudes." The session is scheduled from 4:30 - 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 30, 1998.
Biographies of Successful Engineers
One effective strategy for strengthen-ing students commitment to engineering is exposure to role models. An excellent way to bring about this exposure is to encourage students to read biographies of successful engineers.
This is the second list (see Success 101, Issue #4, Fall, 1997) of recommended books prepared by Cal State L.A. Engineering Librarian Steve Sottong. Inquires or recommendations can be sent to:
Note: All of the books listed are available for purchase on the Internet through either:
Bucky Works: Buckminister Fullers Ideas for Today, by J. Baldwin, John Wiley & Sons, 1997 (ISBN #0471198129). From the publisher: Baldwin worked with Fuller on and off for 33 years and his book synthesizes Buckys major concepts and inventions in language that will inspire readers to think about alternative ways of living and building a better future.
The First Nuclear Era: The Life and Times of a Technological Fixer, by Alvin Martin Weinberg, American Institute of Physics, 1994 (ISBN #1563963582. From the publisher: The First Nuclear Era is Alvin Weinbergs autobiography, the memoirs of a most influential American nuclear engineer/ physicist. He describes his academic career at the University of Chicago, his wartime days at the Manhattan Project, and his involvement with nuclear reactors. Weinberg offers an objective critique of the technical and political shortcomings that have haunted the nuclear age.
Alexanderson: Pioneer in American Electrical Engineering, By James E. Brittain, Published by Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992 (ISBN #080184228X). From the publisher: Ernst F. W. Alexanderson came to the United States from Sweden in 1901. A prolific inventor in the fields of radio, television, power transmission, electric railways, radar, and computers, he secured more than 340 U.S. patents¾ the last one in 1973 at the age of 95. Brittain treats themes that remain of vital interest today, including the issue of creativity in a corporate setting, the distinctions between science and engineering, the importance of corporate style and culture, and the role of the military in bringing about techno-logical change.
The Innovators: The Engineering Pioneers Who Made America Modern, by David P. Billington, John Wiley & Sons (ISBN #0471140260). From the publisher: Mr. Billington emphasizes the innovations that were truly basic to U.S. industrialization. The author uses a three-sided view to describe American engineering history¾ what great engineers actually did; the political and economic conditions within which they worked; and the influence that these designers and their achievements had on the nation.
Journeys of Women in Science and Engineering: No Universal Constants, by Susan A. Ambrose, Barbara B. Lazarus, and Indira Nair, Temple University Press, 1997 (ISBN #1566395275). From the author: In Journeys, we wanted to represent the vagaries of experience and interactions, the diversity, the joys and troubles of women working as scientists and engineers in the U.S. today. Our hope is that people will find these lives resonating with theirs in some places, carry away an inspirational statement or two, and get an overall picture of the history and sociology of women in science and engineering.
Working With Students to Change Their Attitudes
(Note: This section is excerpted from R. B. Landis, "Enhancing Engineering Student Success: Working With Students to Change Their Attitudes," Proceedings of 1998 ASEE Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.)
Establishing a goal provides a criterion that can be used to judge student attitudes as either negative or positive. Negative attitudes are defined as those that lead to non-productive behaviors¾ i.e., behaviors that tend to interfere with students success in engineering study. Positive attitudes are defined as those that lead to productive behaviors¾ i.e., behaviors that support students success in engineering study.
Among those negative attitudes that can inhibit the academic performance of first year engineering students are:
Weak commitment to engineering as a choice of major
Unrealistic view of what is expected (e.g., overconfidence)
Lack of self-worth (i.e., tendency to sabotage ones success)
External "locus-of-control" (i.e., victim role)
Unwillingness to seek help
Resistance to change (e.g., personal growth and development)
Tendency toward procrastination (e.g., negative view toward time management)
Avoidance of areas of weakness or perceived unpleasantness (e.g., written communications, interpersonal interaction, chemistry)
Reluctance to study with other students
Negative view toward authority figures (e.g., parents, professors)
How is it that bright, academically prepared first-year engineering students could hold a series of negative attitudes that threaten their very success in engineering study, and not do anything about the situation? One would think that such students as logical thinkers and analytical problem-solvers would identify the "problem" and solve it. The reasons so many students dont do so should provide a serious incentive for engineering educators to commit to providing the help students need to understand the attitudes that are driving them.
Exercise For Changing Student Attitudes
The following describes a practical five-step approach for working with students to uncover (i.e., become conscious of) negative attitudes and attempt to change them.
Step 1. Conduct an exercise during class in which you ask students to identify key areas about which their attitudes (positive or negative) are likely to have an impact on their success in engineering study. During this brainstorming session, write all responses on the blackboard. Feel free to add a few of your own.
Step 2. Pick 5-10 of the areas listed, and as a homework assignment have each student write down three positive attitudes and three negative attitudes they have about each area.
Step 3. During the class period at which the homework assignment is due, have volunteers share negative attitudes they have about one of the areas. Ask each respondent to answer the question: "Is this attitude working for me or against me?" Note that you may find in some cases that what students perceive as a negative attitude may in fact be working for them (e.g., a negative attitude toward the inertia of the university bureaucracy may have taught the student to be more effective in how he or she approaches dealing with it).
Step 4. For each attitude that is not working for a student, ask him or her: "Do you know why you hold this attitude? Where did it come from?" In some cases, the attitude may have a legitimate source. For example, a student that is taking 16 credit hours and working 40 hours a week may have a very legitimate reason for resenting the amount of homework he or she is requested to do. In such a case, the possibility of eliminating the source of the negative attitude can and should be explored.
The primary purpose of asking students to identify the source of negative attitudes is to emphasize that in most cases negative attitudes were learned and hence can be unlearned. Another way to illustrate to students that attitudes are not absolute is to have several students in the class describe their attitude about a specific issue (e.g., "What is your attitude about this class and what we are doing here today?"). Seeing that their peers have much more positive attitudes can have a strong impact on a students negative thinking.
Step 5. For each attitude that is not working for a student, ask him or her: "Can you change the attitude to one that will work for you?" Teach students that one of the best techniques for changing a negative attitude to a positive one is to find a higher context for their thinking. For engineering students, the most appropriate higher context is their goal of success in graduating in engineering.
For example, lets imagine that a student relates that she is failing math because the professor is boring, unprepared, never smiles, and doesnt like her. This students has developed the belief that: "I cant pass a course if I dont like the professor." The student has adopted an external locus-of-control view in which passing her math course is viewed as totally in the control of the professor. It is important that she become "conscious" that this is a negative attitude (one that interferes with her goal of success in engineering study) and that it can be changed. Suggestions from the class might lead her to change her attitude to: "I can pass a class when I dont like the professor, but it is going to require me to adopt alternate strategies and to put in more work." This positive attitude might lead to behaviors that include sitting in on another instructors lectures, seeking help from students who passed the course last semester, utilizing the tutors in the math lab, or practicing using old exams.
Active Learning Strategies: Why All the Resistance?
Faculty tend to resist changing from the lecture format to active learning pedagogies. An Introduction to Engineering course having a "student development" focus is no place for one-way communication. Changing students behavior and changing students attitudes will not occur without their active participation.
Dr. Janet Fisher-Hoult, Director of the Center for Effective Teaching and Learning at Cal State L.A., provided the following list of reasons why faculty dont use active learning:
Educational tradition: faculty lecture; students take notes.
The old model worked for me; why not for my student?
My class is too large to do active learning.
I have too much content to cover in lecture.
I dont want to change.
Whats in it for me?
Too much prep time is required.
I dont want to take risks, to lose control of my classroom.
What will my colleagues think?
I dont know how to do it.
Any of these sound familiar?
ENHANCING STUDENT SUCCESS
"Enhancing student success" means changing student attitudes and changing student behaviors. An effective "student success" course focuses on bringing about behavioral and attitudinal changes in areas related to five key themes:
In order for you to personally assess the potential benefit of a "student success" course, you are encouraged to consider the behavioral and attitudinal objectives listed below from three perspectives:
Would first year engineering students be more successful if they practiced these behaviors and held these attitudes?
Do your first year engineering students currently hold these attitudes and practice these behaviors to the extent you would like?
If your answer to #1 is "Yes" and your answer to #2 is "No," do you believe that it would be possible to achieve the objectives listed below?
1. COMMUNITY BUILDING
Students in the "Introduction to Engineering" course make up a supportive learning community.
Socialization¾ Each student in the class knows every other student in the class.
Group building¾ Students have a strong sense of group and are committed to a high level of mutual support.
Human relations training¾ Students have the interpersonal skills necessary to interact with each other in a positive and effective manner.
2. PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Students are motivated by a clear under-standing of engineering as a profession. Students conduct themselves ethically and in a professional manner at all times.
Motivation¾ Students are highly motivated through a clear understanding of the rewards and opportunities success in engineering study will bring to their lives.
Understanding of engineering¾ Students can give an articulate response to the question "What is engineering?" Students are aware of the various academic disciplines and job functions of engineering.
Industry practice¾ Students are aware of the various industry sectors (e.g., computer, aerospace, electronic, utility, oil, large constructors, etc.) and of how engineers are utilized in each of these sectors.
Professional student organizations¾ Students recognize the value of actively participating in student organizations, particularly those related to their chosen profession (ASME, ASCE, IEEE, etc.) and seek to take on leadership roles in those organizations.
Ethics and professionalism¾ Students are aware of good ethical and professional practice and engage in such practice at all times.
3. ACADEMIC DEVELOPMENT
Students know about and put into practice positive attitudes and productive behaviors that will result in academic success.
Interaction with faculty¾ Students interact regularly with their professors both in the classroom and outside of it, positively and with benefit.
Interaction with peers¾ Students make effective use of their peers by frequent sharing of information and by regularly engaging in group study and collaborative learning.
Campus resources¾ Students are aware of and make optimal use of campus resources (e.g., writing center, counseling center, health center, library, placement center, etc.).
Time on task¾ Students manage their time so as to devote an appropriate amount of time and effort to studying and are operating under the principle that they master the material covered in each class period before the next class period comes.
Time on campus¾ Students are aware of the importance of being immersed in the academic environment so that they can take full advantage of the resources available to them, and therefore spend as much time on campus as possible.
Other study skills¾ Students are aware of and practice good study skills in other areas (e.g., note taking, test taking, etc.).
4. PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
Students have a good understanding of and feel good about themselves and their educational experience. Students interact well with and respect others, engage in good health and wellness practices, and effectively manage the various aspects of their personal life.
Understanding of self¾ Students' personality traits, learning styles and brain dominance have been assessed using standard instruments, and they have a strong understanding of themselves as unique individuals.
Self-confidence and self-esteem¾ Students feel good about themselves and their situation, and are confident in their ability to succeed academically.
Self-assessment¾ Students have clear goals and have a plan for their personal development based on a self-assessment of their strengths and weaknesses.
Wellness and stress management¾ Students engage in good health and wellness practices and know how to manage stress through stress-reduction methods.
Respect for and interaction with others¾ Students value and respect differences in people and interact effectively with people of all cultures, ethnicities and genders.
Management of personal life¾ Students are effective in managing the various aspects of their personal life, including interaction with family and friends, personal finances, work load, etc.
Students understand how the engineering college and the university work and how best to take advantage of the resources available to them.
College of engineering¾ Students understand the organizational structure, facilities, resources and regulations of the college of engineering and make effective use of them.
University¾ Students understand the organizational structure, facilities, resources and regulations of the university and make effective use of them.
Building Advocacy for "Student Success" Courses for Engineering Freshmen
by Ray Landis
A key to establishing "student success" courses for engineering freshmen is effective advocacy on the part of engineering faculty. Only through such advocacy will these courses negotiate the rocky road through the curricular approval process at departmental and college-wide levels.
At last years NSF-sponsored Chautauqua short course "Enhancing Student Success Through a Model Introduction to Engineering Course," participants engaged in an exercise to develop both reasons for and reasons against such courses. One group of overly enthusiastic volunteers agreed to form the "dreaded curriculum committee" and spent time articulating their opposition. Five other groups spent time developing their points in favor. Presentations before the mock committee yielded the following pros and cons:
|Reasons Given in Favor of Course
||Reasons Given in Opposition to Course
|View this as a "pilot" for one year. We want to try something new and innovative.
||"Pilots" never go away.
|Course will improve student learning in other courses.
||Too much "coddling" students. What happens when this "crutch" is removed?
|Course will improve student retention and help sustain strong enrollment.
||No room in the curriculum. Will increase units to graduation.
|Course will improve diversity of engineering students.
||Maybe okay for non-traditional students. Why make all students take it?
|Course recognizes the need to provide transition from high school to university.
||Proposed course insults students intelligence.
|Course has been proven effective at other institutions.
||Do you have hard data that shows these courses improve retention?
|We will evaluate the effectiveness of the course.
||We dont trust you.
|Course will correct deficiencies in students that faculty complain about.
||None of our faculty will want to teach such a course.
|Course helps students choose their engineering discipline.
||Instructor will try to sell students on his/her discipline.
|Course will improve student satisfaction with their educational experience.
||Attitudes of engineering freshmen are irrelevant.
|Course is responsive to ABET Engineering Criteria 2000.
||Why not integrate across existing courses (i.e., "student success across the curriculum")?
|Course is responsive to what industry wants from engineering education.
||If industry wants it, let them do it!
|Course will lead to more effective use of $$ (i.e., less failure).
||Why commit resources to something we dont believe will work?
As you can see, powerful and potentially persuasive points can be made on both sides. The purpose of this article is to assist you in becoming an effective advocate for "student success" courses for engineering students. Effective advocacy requires not only the ability to articulate your case, but also an understanding of the opposition and an ability to address their concerns.
The Name Game: Its All in How You Do It
The first issue of Success 101 contained the following article on "The Name Game."
Strong peer support can be a key to success in engineering study. The benefits of sharing information, group study, and integration of ones academic life and social life are enormous. Consequently, building your students into a learning community will benefit them more than perhaps any other thing you can do.
The first step in building a learning community is helping students get to know one another as a minimum by name. Set as a goal that each student in your class can call the first and last name of every other student in the class without hesitation. This can be accomplished by devoting a few minutes in each class period to "The Name Game."
Form students randomly into groups of six or seven. In their groups, the first student introduces himself or herself (first and last name); the second student introduces the first student and then himself or herself; the third student introduces the first two students and then himself or herself. Continue until each student can introduce all students in the group (generally takes about five minutes).
Mix groups each class period. Repeat exercise until every student in the class can introduce every other student (generally five or six class periods for a class of 30). You should sit in on the groups during the exercise. In this way, you can learn the names of the students in your class.
Other attributes can be added such as major, hometown, favorite hobby, etc. For example, first student gives name, major, hometown, and favorite hobby. Second students gives all of the attributes of the first student and then his or hers. And so forth.
Lets say youve read this and youre convinced. With great enthusiasm, you go to your next class meeting and announce the following to your students: "Ive just read an article that convinced me that we should learn each others names, and were going to spend a few minutes each period doing a name learning exercise." How do you think your students would react?
You might want to check out an article in the November, 1997 issue ASEE PRISM: "Enhancing Student Success: A Five-Step Process for Getting Students to Study Smart." The approach presented there would be a sure fire way to accomplish your purpose. Heres a summary of the process.
Step 1 - Establish a baseline
Go to class and ask your students: "How many of you could name all of the students in this class? How many of you could name half of the students in the class? How many of you could name the student sitting on your right and the student sitting on your left?"
Step 2 - Deliver Knowledge
If your experience matches mine and you find that your students do not know each other, explain the benefits of being part of a learning community. Have the students do a brainstorming exercise to identify a list of ways they could benefit from knowing each other.
Step 3 - Build Commitment
Seek your students opinions on whether the benefits of being part of a learning community would be of value to them. Ask them whether they would like to know each other. Try to get them to agree to learning each others names, even if just to see what its like to be in a class where everyone knew each other.
Step 4 - Implementation
Conduct "The Name Game" as described above.
Step 5 - Process outcomes
Near the end of the term, ask the students to write a one-page critique describing any differences they experi-enced by knowing all the students in the class. On the day the assignment is due, ask several students to read their critiques aloud. Ask other students to comment and give their views.
Engineering faculty who have conducted this exercise have reported significant changes including improved attendance, increased energy level, more attention to homework, and more in-class questions. Learning communities work. But its not only what you do; its how you do it.
by Mark Tufenkjian, Cal State L.A.
Community building should be a key component to any "Introduction to Engineering" course aimed at enhancing student success. An effective way I have found to introduce community building in my "Introduction to Engineering" class is through the use of survival simulations.
One particularly effective survival simulation is the "Sub-Artic Survival Situation" developed by Human Synergistics International. The objective of the simulation is to build team consensus and develop decision-making skills by presenting a survival challenge in a remote area. The sub-artic survival situation is a scenario in which a plane crash has marooned survivors in a frigid and isolated environment with only minimal salvaged items. Team members are required to rank these items individually and then as a group, according to their survival value. The team ranks are compared to an "experts" rank in order to provide a frame of reference. Generally, the team rank outscores the individual rank indicating efficient use of the groups resources and team synergy. However, on occasion, individual rankings may outscore the group scores indicating a breakdown in group dynamics. Possible reasons for group breakdowns may be discussed with the students. Through this process, students are exposed to the behaviors and skills necessary for effective teamwork.
The exercise is easy to facilitate. Participant booklets and a video describe the scenario (complete with a topographic map of the sub-artic region) and present the survival challenge. A scoring grid facilitates individual and team score comparisons. Especially dramatic is the accompanying video, which uses a sight-and-sound reenactment to provide a sense of realism that immediately engages the students.
I have found that the sub-artic survival simulation is fun and naturally encourages student participation. It is a good "icebreaker" for a freshman orientation class, and since the simulation is interactive and team-oriented, students gain an understanding of what is involved in the group decision-making process (group dynamics). Students learn that in order to "survive," they must cooperate and support one another, that the collective is greater than the individual, and that teamwork is necessary for enhancing their success in their academic and professional careers.
Note: Human Synergistics International may be contacted at 1-800-622-7584, or through their web site at www.humansyn.com.
Are We Teaching Moral Literacy in Our Ethics Courses?
by Irving Kett, California State University, Los Angeles
An increasing number of engineering schools today offer a freshman orientation course that at least spends some time on the question of ethics. This is quite a departure from how the subject of ethics was approached in American universities a century ago. In those days, the ethics course was offered in the senior year, as a culmination of college life, and the message was directed toward one goal¾ to raise the moral standards of society.
Today, much of what we include in our ethics courses is not aimed at personal morality, but rather at impersonal social issues such as euthanasia, abortion, and DNA research. Topics such as cheating, lying, hypocrisy, plagiarism, and self-deception are rarely even touched upon. This approach flies in the face of the urgent need to confront the issues of moral relativism that generally plagues society and particularly the students entering our colleges and universities.
The problem of cheating has become so endemic in our culture that a student I know raised the question: WHAT IS YOUR DEGREE WORTH? Cheating begins in the grade schools, continues on to high school, and then to college. It is demoralizing to those students who do not cheat and generally denigrates the whole academic climate. Even the military academies, where the honor system has been enshrined for generations, have been rocked of late by cheating scandals.
Cheating is a symptom, albeit a serious and important one, of a general societal moral malaise. Those who get through school by cheating will have little compunction to steal from their employers and show little regard for the responsibilities that an engineer should have toward society.
In my opinion, the three areas of ethical considerations which should be included in a freshman orientation course, in the order of emphasis, are:
Moral behavior on the personal level
Professional responsibilities of the engineer
Attitudes toward questions involving social policies
It seems to me that the academic community has an obligation of transmitting ethical behavior along with technical excellence to young engineering students.
Learning to Learn: Self-Directed Learning Projects
by Mary Heather Hannah, University of Arkansas
People learn about many things¾ sports, hobbies, careers, music, art, current events, and the like¾ outside of formal educational institutions. Often times a person will pursue a learning project with little or no formal planning. Allen Tough's 1979 book The Adult's Learning Projects lists several steps undertaken by successful self-directed learners. According to Tough self-directed learners will:
identify specific knowledge and skills needed to complete the learning project
decide on activities, materials, resources, and equipment needed to begin the learning project
decide where to learn
decide when to learn
set the pace of learning
set specific deadline or intermediate goals
determine criteria for measuring progress
secure needed resources and contact necessary resource people
obtain money, as necessary
create a learning environment
detect personal learning obstacles and inefficiencies
sustain motivation by confronting motivational blocks
revise plans and goals, as necessary
Each person learns differently and, as such, will approach a self-directed learning (SDL) project differently. For example, I decide I want to learn about France. I could go to the library and find a book on France; I could obtain a language tape and learn to speak French; I could purchase a plane ticket and go to France. All of these learning plans could be implemented; however, the most appropriate plan depends on my goals and objectives.
Planning a Personal Learning Project
This exercise allows students to practice planning a SDL project and to discuss differences among personal learning styles. Materials needed for this exercise include a large sheet of flip chart paper, colored markers, masking tape, and Tough's steps, for reference. The teacher must select a topic for the self-directed learning project appropriate for the average age of the students and their general interests. Possible topics may include identifying career opportunities for engineers or discriminating between several types of engineering.
The teacher will break the class into smaller groups of five or six and give each group a sheet of paper and a couple of markers. The paper and markers are used to record the learning plan. The students should be given the topic and approximately 30 minutes to develop a learning plan. After that time, the plans should be taped up so that everyone can see them. Students should then discuss the similarities and differences among the plans.
Remember, there are no right and wrong answers, just different approaches to the same topic. However, some approaches may work better than others.
Dr. Edward N. Prather, Assistant Dean of Engineering at the University of Cincinnati, conducts a course for his students entitled "Achievement, Motivation, and Success Behaviors." Dr. Prather shared the following exercise he uses to help his students better understand themselves.
Do I like myself? Explain in what ways "yes" and in what ways "no."
How confident am I when I begin something new? In what ways do I feel confident and in what ways insecure?
What do I do best? What do I do poorly?
Am I pleased with the way I treat others? Explain in what ways "yes" and in what ways "no."
Am I pleased with the way others treat me? Explain in what ways "yes" and in what ways "no."
Am I pleased with the way I do my work? Explain in what ways "yes" and in what ways "no."
How do I describe myself to others?
Do I talk much about myself? How do I feel about being the topic of conver-sation, both when I initiate it and when I do not?
When I do discuss myself, what are the topics and contexts? Who are the other participants in the conversation?
In what areas do I report myself favor-ably and in what areas unfavorably?
Do I believe what I say about myself? Explain in what ways "yes" and in what ways "no."
What are the characteristics of others whom I find attractive? Explain how these characteristics are attractive.
What are the characteristics of others whom I find unattractive? Explain how these characteristics are unattractive.
Students are asked to prepare a written response to these questions as a homework assignment. In class, students pair up and discuss their written responses. Next a general class discussion focuses on finding commonalities. The purpose is to identify behaviors and attitudes that inhibit success and need to be changed.
CALL FOR PAPERS
Success 101 is published twice yearly (May 1 and December 1) and mailed to approximately 3,000 engineering and engineering technology educators. We are seeking articles for the Fall, 1998 issue.
Deadline October 15, 1998
Submissions may range from very short (e.g., quotes, exercises, activities) to up to two pages in the newsletter (opinion pieces, success stories, letters to the editor). Submit (preferably by e-mail or on disk) to:
c/o Dr. Raymond B. Landis
School of Engineering and Technology
California State University, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA 90032
Telephone: (213) 343-4500
E-mail: [email protected]