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Strategies For Teaching Technical Subjects To Non Technical Engineering Technology Students

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.392.1 - 1.392.4

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Steven Widmer

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

Session 0230

Strategies For Teaching Technical Subjects To Non Technical Engineering Technology Students

Steven Widmer Purdue University


Almost any technical curriculum is challenged by students that are not technically oriented. Terminology, basic science, machine concepts, technical terminology and common sense are key ingredients required when entering an engineering technology program. Experience in my courses indicate students that do not have basic technical mechanical knowledge are at a disadvantage and do not compete on a level playing field with other technical oriented students. The paper outlines the problem and suggests applied approaches and teaching strategies. The advantages to tailoring instruction to the non technical student will result in improved retention and a more informed and more interested student.


While all of us may be created equal twenty years down the path of life many people develop differences in level of achievement, communication skills, technical ability and practical experience. Instructors and professors all except that fact in a technical course, that is experience and ability will vary within a random group of students. However what do we do about it? Usually nothing or the minimum which is certainly not enough to create a level playing field when competing in technical courses. Competing? Yes most professors still require a curve to establish letter grades based on the average and standard deviation. Such a policy places students in a very difficult position in an environment that should foster not only learning but teamwork.

Let’s clarify the issues. I believe the students entering engineering technology programs today come from a much more varied background than entering students twenty years ago. Thus we have a more diverse group but not necessarily a more experienced group. Many of these students have had little opportunity to experience machines used for manufacturing and most have never owned an automobile so have no basis for cost or maintenance requirements of a machine. The reasons for this result from many different factions and could be an entirely separate argument in itself. One of the stronger being that today’s working parents have little time available for working on machines in the home or for hobby. Also today’s high school student is usually inundated in school activities.

All these considerations lead me to believe that in engineering courses there is a need to address the less experienced students as non technical at least as an incoming student. The negative side of not coming to grip with the facts is losing the students interest and desire for knowledge at the initial point of their college career. Possibly loosing the student to another curriculum or being academically expelled. Today I think it more important than ever to consider retention, opportunity and fairness in our teaching styles and technical

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Widmer, S. (1996, June), Strategies For Teaching Technical Subjects To Non Technical Engineering Technology Students Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia.

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