June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.1003.1 - 11.1003.16
Power/Knowledge: Using Foucault to promote critical understandings of content and pedagogy in Engineering Thermodynamics Abstract
Thermodynamics is a subject area in engineering that is deeply relevant, as it deals with energy use in society. However, students often struggle to connect their experiences of energy with course content traditionally based in theoretical discoveries from 19th century Western Europe. The work of French philosopher Michel Foucault is similar to thermodynamics in that its abstract poststructuralist theory strikes fear in the hearts of students, but can be made deeply relevant when its understanding is grounded in one’s experience.
An excerpt from Foucault’s Power/Knowledge discussing the “regime of truth” was used to stimulate critical thinking about the course content. In a reflective essay and class discussion, students considered the relationship between power and knowledge in thermodynamics and beyond. Analyzing student responses to the Foucault reading and regular course reflections reveals a significant shift in their understanding of classroom pedagogy, an increase in critical thinking about the course and its subject matter, and an emergence of independent ideas that students pursued further in the course.
Engineering students continually confront the challenge of bridging the gap between theory and practice, between curriculum content and learning process, between their engineering education and their future professional lives. The connections students make between their education and their personal lives is most often untapped. Using liberative pedagogies (processes that empower students in their learning through active engagement and self-reflection), the engineering thermodynamics course at Smith College has been revised to promote the relationship between thermodynamics and student experience.1 Student engagement with the classroom innovations aids the learning process and provides an opportunity for students to take responsibility for their learning. Thus, an excerpt from Foucault’s Power/Knowledge2 discussing the “regime of truth” was introduced to stimulate questions exploring the course content and the learning process, as well as to emphasize the ultimate goals of liberative pedagogies, critical thinking and reflective action.
Engineering 290: Engineering Thermodynamics covers a traditional core curriculum in thermodynamics in one semester, addressing applications in mechanical, chemical, and environmental engineering. After establishing a base of skills and knowledge (equations of state and properties of pure substances; the first law; the second law; and the fundamental property relations), students apply these principles to characterize different kinds of engineering systems, including engine and power cycles. The course objectives state that students develop:
Riley, D., & Claris, L. (2006, June), Power/Knowledge: Using Foucault To Promote Critical Understandings Of Content And Pedagogy In Engineering Thermodynamics Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--155
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