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Strategies For Developing Reflexive Habits In Students

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.556.1 - 5.556.12



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Lesley Jolly

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David Radcliffe

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

Session 1353

Strategies for Developing Reflexive Habits in Students

Lesley Jolly, David Radcliffe

University of Queensland, Australia

Abstract It is widely accepted that engineering graduates should not only be technically competent but they should also be skilled in communication and teamwork, have social and global awareness, be self-directed and have an expectation of life-long learning. However it is much less clear how these "soft skills" are best developed in undergraduate engineers in the context of their studies. We have worked with over 350 students from freshman to seniors to develop a reflexive approach to their work. This has been done in the context of project-based, design courses, involving both individual and group work in the disciplines of mechanical and chemical engineering. We conclude that student attitudes clearly evidenced the need for engineering staff to model reflective practice and place regular emphasis on its value as a professional learning tool. Exercises in reflective thinking are most effective if integrated into other more ‘traditional’ engineering tasks rather than being set as ‘stand alone’ tasks. We argue that the best way to make expert knowledge accessible to non-experts is through getting the experts to reflect on their successes and failures.


Engineers and engineering students have been described as conforming to a personality type1 that one does not immediately associate with reflexive habits. The typical engineer is reported to be concerned with order and certainty and therefore to be averse to ambiguity, to have a rather narrow range of interests, to be not given to introspection and not much interested in people. And yet for many years now reviews of engineering and engineering education around the world2 have called for engineers to rise to the challenge of a global environment characterised by rapid social, environmental and technological change3. That is, the modern engineer is asked to deal with ambiguous and changing circumstances and in a social and environmental context.

Like similar reviews in North America (ABET 2000) and Europe during the 1990's, the Review of Engineering Education in Australia made sweeping recommendations for changes to how engineers are formed. The title of the final report, Changing the Culture: Engineering Education into the Future indicates the degree of changed required. The Review was conducted jointly by three key stakeholder groups, the Institution of Engineers, Australia (the accrediting body), the Council of Engineering Deans and the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and it was funded by the Australian Government.

Jolly, L., & Radcliffe, D. (2000, June), Strategies For Developing Reflexive Habits In Students Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8710

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