The challenges for new engineering educators abound and there are never enough hours in a day or days in a week. Young educators may lack confidence in course subject material given that they have never taught (the topic and/or in a classroom) before. In addition, their knowledge of teaching pedagogy and classroom management strategies often lacks refinement since their education is almost exclusively in a field of engineering rather than education. Teaching workshops have been developed to expose instructors in higher education to practical teaching pedagogy and effective classroom management. These workshops often emphasize research-based methods including use of clearly defined learning objectives and implementing active learning techniques in the classroom. Such methods can be very useful and have been shown to be successful; however, for the new engineering educator, the implementation of such methods can be mentally and emotionally challenging and time consuming.
This paper provides the authors’ reflection, as two relatively new engineering educators, on their personal implementation of learning objectives and active learning techniques in the classroom in their second and third years of teaching. We feel that our comparative evaluations are unique and helpful because we teach at two different teaching-focused institutions and have employed methods and techniques that we have gleaned from attending two different, unrelated workshops. While both workshops promoted active learning techniques, one workshop was geared primarily towards engineering education and included topics on developing appropriate learning objectives while the other workshop was multidisciplinary with attendees from the humanities and the sciences and focused primarily on active learning in the classroom.
Both of the authors found their respective workshops to be very beneficial, both have endeavored to incorporate techniques from these workshops, and both have had success and struggles in the implementation of these methods. One aspect discussed is the development of learning objectives which drives lecture content and enables students to review their own mastery of the material. In addition, a specific active-learning technique that has been implemented by one of the authors in an engineering course is presented in depth. The approach involves working on a conceptually-focused quiz problem through individual work, group work, and class discussion throughout a class period. This method motivates the students to engage, discuss, and learn together actively as they work cooperatively with a unified focus.
This reflection of the specific approaches to integrating appropriate learning objectives and active learning techniques into our engineering courses can provide concurrent perspective for other new engineering educators seeking to improve their effectiveness in the classroom and experienced educators looking for fresh ways to engage students. As a result of the authors’ experiences and reflection, a collection of tips for success in implementing specific teaching strategies is provided.
Foster, Michael R. and Vander Werff, Justin R., "Techniques from Workshops on Teaching: Implementing the Concepts and Evaluating Our Approaches" (2011). Faculty Publications - Biomedical, Mechanical, and Civil Engineering. 21.