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Paul Revere In The Science Lab: Integrating Humanities And Engineering Pedagogies To Develop Skills In Contextual Understanding And Self Directed Learning

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary and Liberal Education

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1147.1 - 12.1147.18



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Paper Authors


Robert Martello Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

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Robert Martello is an Associate Professor of the History of Science and Technology at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering.

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Jonathan Stolk Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

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Jonathan Stolk is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering.

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

Paul Revere in the Science Lab: Integrating Humanities and Engineering Pedagogies to Develop Skills in Contextual Understanding and Self-Directed Learning Abstract

ABET, ASEE, and the wider engineering community have long acknowledged the potential benefits of interdisciplinary education, including the opportunity to develop non-technical skills such as communication and teamwork while cultivating a broader awareness of the ethical, societal, historical, and environmental impacts of engineering work. Instructors have encountered many challenges in planning and implementing integrated courses, such as the difficulty of coordinating the teaching methods, content, and learning objectives of different academic disciplines in a finite and already overcrowded curriculum. This paper presents the goals, design approach, implementation, and selected outcomes of one integrated project-based course (using Paul Revere and other case studies to integrate materials science with the history of technology) and uses it to discuss the advantages of disciplinary integration, particularly with respect to improved student self-direction and contextual understanding. Assessments administered during and after class suggest that this integrated course successfully engendered high student motivation along with an increase in student aptitudes over the course of the semester without a corresponding loss of discipline-specific knowledge. The implementation of this integrated course and the evaluation of its outcomes are works in progress, and future assessments are being designed to shed additional light upon these issues.


In recent years, the broader engineering community as well as individuals and departments around the country have affirmed the importance of modernizing and updating engineering pedagogy in many ways, including the application of self- (or student-) directed learning approaches (i.e., activities that help students to gather and evaluate information, set educational goals, and plan and execute activities that help them achieve these goals) as well as the integration of broader social, historical, ethical, environmental, or other context into technical projects and topics. Authors Martello and Stolk initiated this study as a first step towards understanding these educational approaches and implementing them in a customized interdisciplinary activity. Beginning in 2003, the authors initiated a double-sized integrated course block titled Paul Revere: Tough as Nails that combines an introductory materials science course with a history of technology course, allowing students to work on engineering projects with broader implications than the purely technical. This course takes place at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, a relatively new undergraduate college located in Needham, Massachusetts, whose small student body consists solely of engineers. To date the instructors have taught this course twice, with a third offering in progress in spring of 2007. The authors have begun some assessments of this integrated course, but as this project is still ongoing these assessments are not comprehensive. This paper represents a first step in understanding these issues in this particular science and humanities setting, and investigates the connections between self-directed context-rich learning experiences, student attitudes, and broad competency development.

Martello, R., & Stolk, J. (2007, June), Paul Revere In The Science Lab: Integrating Humanities And Engineering Pedagogies To Develop Skills In Contextual Understanding And Self Directed Learning Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1915

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