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The Role of Andragogy in Mechanical Engineering Education

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Teams, Teaching, Leadership, and Technical Communications in Mechanical Engineering

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Richard Melnyk U.S. Military Academy Orcid 16x16

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LTC Rich Melnyk is an Army Aviator and Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the United States Military Academy, West Point. He was an Instructor and Assistant Professor from 2004-2007 and returned to teaching in 2015. He has a PhD in Aerospace Engineering, a PE in Mechanical Engineering, an MBA in Technology Management and recently commanded a Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, Georgia.

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Brian J. Novoselich U.S. Military Academy

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Brian Novoselich is an active duty Army Lieutenant Colonel currently serving as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the United States Military Academy (West Point). He earned his Ph.D. in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech in 2016. He holds Master's and Bachelor's degrees in mechanical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin and West Point respectively. His research interests include capstone design teaching and assessment, undergraduate engineering student leadership development, and social network analysis. He is also a licensed professional engineer in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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As highlighted by ABET mechanical engineering program accreditation criteria, a goal of an undergraduate mechanical engineering program is to prepare undergraduate students to work professionally in thermal or mechanical systems. Correspondingly, a student’s undergraduate experience marks a transition from their formative years as teacher-dependent, full-time students toward an adulthood marked by self-directed learning and full-time employment. To date, undergraduate engineering education literature has oriented on students as young, dependent learners through the use of the term pedagogy to describe techniques and methods of teaching rather than andragogy, which refers to educating adult, self-directed learners. A search for the two topics in the Journal for Engineering Education returns 277 articles associated with the term pedagogy compared to 2 for andragogy, for a ratio of over 138:1. For the International Journal of Engineering Education the ratio is 119:1. A similar search of all ASEE conference articles since 1996 returns over 104:1. The initial conclusion of these findings is that the topic of andragogy is less prevalent than pedagogy in engineering education publications. This is problematic considering these two learner orientations bring with them a set of conflicting underlying assumptions regarding the learner themselves, with the pedagogical assumptions less consistent with ABET student outcomes.

The purpose of this paper is to provide undergraduate mechanical engineering educators with a better understanding of how andragogy may play an integral role in the education of undergraduate engineering students. The assumptions associated with andragogy may be better suited to preparing students for the rigors of professional mechanical engineering practice. Using a single case study methodology, this paper examines the guiding documents of one undergraduate mechanical engineering program including 1) ABET accreditation criteria, 2) institution-level guiding documents, and 3) department-level mission and vision statements. Results from this case study analysis contrast the applicability of pedagogical and andragogical assumptions in the education of undergraduate mechanical engineers and highlight how the historically pervasive pedagogical assumptions may hinder the development of students into independent, adult learners. The paper concludes by proposing the use of a continuum to view how pedagogy and andragogy apply across the entire undergraduate mechanical engineering experience as we encourage students to develop into adult, self-directed learners prepared for a life of professional engineering practice.

Melnyk, R., & Novoselich, B. J. (2017, June), The Role of Andragogy in Mechanical Engineering Education Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29002

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