June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Multidisciplinary Engineering and Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
24.775.1 - 24.775.35
Integrating the Classics, Cognitive Science, and Computational Methods at a Polytechnic Institution: Experiences of an Interdisciplinary Humanities Course on Informed Decision Making and Critical ThinkingThe interdisciplinary course “HUM 207: Informed Decision Making for Technical and MedicalProfessionals” debuted in the summer of 2013 at [institution]. The purpose of the course was tointroduce students with engineering, medical technology, computing technology, or businessbackgrounds to the concepts, techniques, knowledge, and perspectives that diverse fields ofstudy (such as classical literature, mathematics, and cognitive psychology) can contribute to thestudents’ technical careers and their lives.This is an exploratory paper about this pilot course, examining the role of the humanities, socialsciences, and communication in engineering education, the deepening of student experiencesthrough the humanities, and the challenges of integrating liberal education into engineering andtechnology curricula.The syllabus was centered on standard critical-thinking material: logic, epistemology, philosophyof science, cognitive science, and psychology. In addition, key concepts in Statistics, experimentdesign, history of medicine, and computational techniques from machine learning and decisionmaking were incorporated to forge connections to the students’ technical majors. These were, inturn, linked to the humanities content through several means such as prompted written and oralinquiry into conceptual parallels between contemporary and historical issues (and similarlybetween classical and modern works), a graphic novel about the quest for completeness inmathematics, and recurring expositions of heuristics, biases, illusions, and fallacies as applicableto each seemingly distinct topic.Exposure to the classics and different philosophical streams were provided in the form of variedreading sources, including required books with differing perspectives. As a result, students wereexposed to a variety of viewpoints as they learned to use cognitive tools for recognizing commonpitfalls of thinking. The goal was to help them develop rigorous, scientific habits of mind whilecultivating an appreciation of commonalities among philosophical, scientific, artistic, andmathematical modes of thought.The primary challenge became apparent early on in class discussions: small-group discussionswere consistently more effective than all-class discussions because scope creep was more easilycontrolled—especially by students. In large groups with such a mixture of students fromdifferent academic standings and backgrounds, a clear delineation of scope by the instructor wasa crucial preface to each discussion. Otherwise, valuable time was wasted on technicalities.Overall, students navigated a dense set of material and course objectives including writing,information literacy, interpreting classic and modern works of fiction, deductive, inductive, andfuzzy logic, Bayesian decision making, applications to justice and health care, and the role ofscience in society. The instructor, in turn, learned about the importance of framing discussionswith a precise focus and about the greater effectiveness of small discussion groups over large.
Vurkaç, M. (2014, June), Integrating Philosophy, Cognitive Science, and Computational Methods at a Polytechnic Institution: Experiences of Interdisciplinary Course Designs for Critical Thinking Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20667
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