July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering
In summarizing the state of engineering education in the United States the 1918 Mann Report articulated a vision for engineering as “harmonizing the conflicting demands of technical skill and liberal education” and the engineer “not as a conglomeration of classical scholarship and mechanical skill, but as the creator of machines and the interpreter of their human significance, well qualified to increase the material rewards of human labor and to organize industry for the more intelligent development of men.” While later reports shifted the direction of degree programs, elements of the vision articulated in the Mann report remain defining characteristics of an engineering education. The focus on industry emphasizes current, contingent, and contextualized knowledge while synthesis of technical, organizational, and liberal forms of knowing and doing remains a strong theme in engineering education.
Engineering, however, is not the only discipline to address such issues. Management, teaching, and medicine also educate people for practice and must continually engage with a changing world to remain relevant. In this paper it is hypothesized that degree programs in these disciplines confront, with varying degrees of success, a tension between providing the knowledge needed to act and inculcating the ability in students to act spontaneously and in the right way. This paper explores this tension by looking across these disciplines to identify practices that are believed to be effective in giving students the knowledge and abilities needed to act professionally. The general approach that has emerged is having students actively address problems of varying degrees of difficulty and constraint through techniques such a problem-based learning.
The broad use of problem-centered techniques in disciplines which deal with “the world as it exists now” is to develop a difficult-to-describe characteristic in students – a pervasive mode of being that allows graduates to address challenges and adapt themselves to new situations as need arises. Because this goal is difficult to articulate or measure, it is often described through analogies such as “T-shaped” engineers or the development of professional or transferable skills. Here it is proposed that this objective is achieved by synthesizing diverse lived experiences, a process which is aided by developing forms of transfer that allows experiences developed in one context to be drawn upon effectively in another. Such experiential transfer is likely different than knowledge transfer across disciplinary domains and may be enhanced by supporting the development of goal-based concepts. Furthermore, although this characteristic is often decomposed into discrete educational outcomes such as teamwork or communication, defining and assessing outcomes necessarily emphasizes skill within a domain rather than synthesis across domains. Thus outcomes-based assessment may be counter-productive to developing sought after characteristics of graduates.
Cheville, A., & Heywood, J. (2021, July), What is Lost When Education is Decomposed into Outcomes? A Critical Look Across Disciplines. Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/38046
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