June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
12.495.1 - 12.495.12
Developing Engineering Curriculum in an Integrated Knowledge Environment
Unlike curricula in professional courses such as medicine and law which are focused on specific discourses such as health and justice respectively, engineering curricula at Australian universities lack, by and large, a unifying ideology. In general schools and faculties of engineering at Australian universities have failed to address this issue and resisted calls for change in professional engineering education curricula. This can be attributed to the philosophical perception about engineering, and the introduction of problem-based delivery in engineering schools at Victoria University has opened a door for not only placing greater focus on constructivist learning but also on re-thinking engineering knowledge itself. The reality that many professional engineering graduates not only diffuse across a range of technical areas but also integrate technical material within social, cultural, and environmental frameworks can be embodied into the new course delivery. This paper is concerned with the development of a multi-disciplinary subject syllabus in Chemistry and Materials Technology with an emphasis on, to what Felder and Brent1 refer as, independent and contextual knowing. Preliminary student feedback has been fairly mixed with many students feeling more comfortable with the traditional passive and prescriptive approach whereas other students were very positive and indicated that the new approach has been responsible for their decision to continue with their enrolment in engineering.
The transformation of professional engineering workplace discourse from one of highly positivist technical in nature to one of social practice has been predicted as an evolutionary process of the professionalization project. Verblen2 saw that the rise of technocracy will lead to the engineering profession becoming the guardian of community welfare by ensuring that industry and the economy are kept away from chaos through the path of responsible planning. Galbraith3 observed that, since 1945, large scale technological development imposed a new form of power and decision-making in private and public organizations. This essentially gave rise to four major power and decision-making estates: scientists, professions, administrators and politicians. Professions replaced entrepreneurs and professionalism assumed the role of post industrial ideology where it emphasized the essential component of technocracy which involved the translation of knowledge into applied practices, and stressed social service through responsibility to both clients and society.
Galbraith’s view implicitly implied that the professionalization project must be accompanied by an acquisition of skills and knowledge of social sciences and humanities as well as the awareness of social and environmental impacts emanating from professional practices. Fawcett and Roberts4 observed that the engineering profession will be invisible and marginalized in the public domain if it continues on the path of celebrants of technology without social values. As technological innovations become more common, the wonder of technology, in public eyes, recedes and with it the profession that developed it and services it.
Yet despite the continual rhetoric, in engineering schools, departments and faculties, of meeting needs of industry, there is disquiet5,6concerning skills and knowledge of engineering graduates from Australian universities. The trend towards softer skills can be gauged through
Rojter, J. (2007, June), Developing Engineering Curriculum In An Integrated Knowledge Environment Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--3053
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