June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Educational Research and Methods
13.885.1 - 13.885.13
Meeting the challenge of reviewing eleven engineering programs Pierre G. Lafleur, Yves Boudreault and Richard Prégent École Polytechnique de Montréal, Québec, CANADA
For 135 years, École Polytechnique de Montréal has provided an engineering program in the province of Québec, Canada. During its long history it has, successfully, faced and overcame many challenges in several areas such as teaching, research, funding, and international collaborations. The recent process through which it has, thoroughly, remodeled its eleven engineering undergraduate programs is, however, quite unique. This remodeling, in part, reflected on the basic mathematics courses and the complementary courses (social and economical aspects of engineering, ethics, etc.). It is unique in many ways: the size of the operation; the depth of the changes implied; as well as, a decentralization process which used and imbedded an extraordinary direct involvement and responsibility of faculty members.
What was the problem? During the many decades of its existence (135 years old), École Polytechnique has reviewed and created many undergraduate and graduate programs. At the undergraduate level we are now providing, on a four-year basis, eleven curriculums to close to four thousand students: civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, software engineering, computer engineering, materials engineering, industrial engineering, physics engineering, chemical engineering, geological engineering and mining engineering. For more than 25 years, The educational model in all our programs has included a first common year of mandatory basic courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry, materials, etc., without a real good knowledge, by the student, of the definition and challenges of the engineering profession.
During their first year at École Polytechnique, students lacked motivation. Their success rate was not satisfying. Other universities, without such a first year of basic courses, began to be more appealing and our inscription rate dropped a little benefiting these other universities, in the province of Québec. Also, as all universities do, we received messages from industry asking us to better prepare our students for «other skills», deemed very important in the actual context of the market place; such as independence, communications and teamwork skills, managing people and tasks, and mobilizing innovation and change. (1)
It was time for a good and thorough analysis of our educational model and a consequent review of all undergraduate programs, according to a contemporary vision of the engineering profession and a corresponding philosophy of teaching engineering.
But time mattered! After many thoughts, our president mandated the Dean of studies to propose a process of review of our programs that would involve the profound changes needed. Because of the competition with other universities, and more importantly because of the long period of implementation of these changes (during the following four years of all of our undergraduate programs), the process analysis, conception and design of our eleven programs had to be done in three years! If we wanted to do a profound review of our practices, if we wanted the changes to be accepted, if we wanted these changes to last and to produce their longitudinal effects, we had
Lafleur, P., & Boudreault, Y., & Prégent, R. (2008, June), Meeting The Challenge Of Reviewing Eleven Engineering Programs Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3448
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