June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.667.1 - 11.667.12
Global Education: Physics on line
Over the last few years the need for engineering professionals in Portugal has become an issue of key importance in order to achieve higher levels of productivity, competitiveness and innovation in different fields. Higher learning institutions, responsible for engineering degrees, have had to adjust their strategies in accordance with their incoming students’ profiles.
The engineer’s role in his or her professional life has changed over these last decades. Also, important vocational differences can be detected for engineering students. Newcomers that begin their studies in this area can come from very different backgrounds. Consequently, they bring numerous gaps in their knowledge, particularly in physics and mathematics. The initial contact with this new reality in their lives is crucial to future success, revealing a great importance for personal and professional development and creating tight bonds with positive influence on dropout rates. These challenges led to the decision to implement a new socio- pedagogical project called GOIS (from Damião de Góis, a prominent Portuguese and European renaissance man). It introduced important innovations and new strategies involving computer-student interaction during teaching-learning processes. Problem-solving skills are fundamental tools for the future engineer; so, the goal is to improve those tools and coach the student in a rational way.
A generation ago freshmen would have had very little chance of finding a door to knock on with the hope of getting some understanding and encouragement. The rigorous freshman and sophomore courses in engineering schools were viewed as a way to weed out weak students. Those who could not deal with it were of no one’s concern. Engineering schools only wanted the best students. Back then, the local saying “Whoever wants acorns must climb the tree,” was a sentiment often expressed in university corridors.
It was only after the student crisis in our school in 1996, which acted as a wake up call, a strong ring/alarm at our unused faculty ears, that the real extent of the engineering shortage became apparent. We realized that we could not afford to be complacent. It was only a matter of time for many other higher education institutions to realize that they could not afford to discourage engineering students anymore either. As Chris Kroeger, an associate dean of engineering and applied science at Washington University in St. Louis, said “We want to be a pump, not a filter.” (Loftus, 2005)1 Similar attitudes were also adopted by well- known institutions. These include Washington University in St. Louis, Virginia Tech College of Engineering, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, Clemson University, University of Missouri, Texas A&M, and a very long list of many others.
Almost a decade has passed since then and the intermittences of political guidelines have meant that Portuguese engineering schools continue to have their work cut out in order to meet our urgent demand for engineers. We face particular social challenges, like those arising from the integration of some students who are the first generation in their families to
Vinhas, J., & Paiva, J. (2006, June), Global Education: Physics On Line Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1088
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