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Learning To Think Critically To Solve Engineering Problems: Revisiting John Dewey’s Ideas For Evaluating The Engineering Education

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Accreditation and Related Issues in ECE

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.817.1 - 8.817.11



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Paper Authors

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Kathleen Knott

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Iraj Omidwar

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Mani Mina

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2132

Learning to Think Critically to Solve Engineering Problems: Revisiting John Dewey’s ideas for evaluating the engineering education

Mani Mina, Iraj Omidvar, and Kathleen Knott Iowa State University

1. Introduction: Engineering education

1.1 Our Goals: How Well we Teach Problem Solving to Engineering Students In this paper we would like to take a critical look at the process of engineering education. In particular, because most engineering programs aim, among other goals, to teach engineering students to become problem solvers1,2, we will examine the skills that engineering problem solvers have and how well we are in teaching “problem solving” skills.

1.2 Our Findings Are Applicable to Other Disciplines We have broad experience in working with students from different backgrounds. Although our experience is mainly with electrical and computer engineering students, we believe that our observations, explanations, questions, and concerns will be of relevance to other engineering disciplines.

1.3 Engineering Programs: Description, Objectives, and Requirements In the typical electrical engineering program with which we are familiar, students are required to take a series of basic and specialized courses. The multidimensional requirements of the program are designed to provide the opportunity to the students to become a competent and conscientious engineer and citizen.

In specialized courses, students are taught an information base (Maxwell equations, Laplace transform, etc.) considered useful in solving engineering problems. In addition, students are required to solve certain types of problems, become familiar with certain types of examples, take tests, and complete projects in order to familiarize themselves with the fundamentals of the field: the methodology usually used by electrical engineers as well as the tools and processes considered helpful to students for learning good engineering designs and practices. As is the case with all engineering programs, the goal of our electrical engineering program is to train well-rounded electrical engineers who are competent in their field, responsible in their actions, creative in their thinking, ethical in their lives, and dependable members in the profession as well as in society. Those of us who have been involved with curriculum committees know the difficulties associated with training well-rounded and creative engineers within the four-to-five year timeframe of an undergraduate-education program. Thus, in addition to general, introductory, and specialized classes in mathematics, physics, and engineering, students are required to take courses in diversity, social science, and general education. The goals of these classes—like those of the specialized and design courses—are to teach students to become adept at practicing and using systematic thinking processes (engineering problem solving). Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Knott, K., & Omidwar, I., & Mina, M. (2003, June), Learning To Think Critically To Solve Engineering Problems: Revisiting John Dewey’s Ideas For Evaluating The Engineering Education Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11610

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