Getting Context Back in Engineering Education

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History reveals a number academically inclined engineers and others who have found engineering education lacking. The critics support their claim with diverse arguments and propose different reform initiatives (Buch 2012). Though the motivation varies the critics seems to agree on broadening engineering education.
In this paper we will discuss issues of curriculum, pedagogics and - most importantly learning - in engineering education. We tend to agree with the critics that there is a need to broaden engineering education. We also suggest that this broadening of the curriculum should be backed up by reconsidering and eventually changing traditional teaching methods and pedagogics in engineering education.
We will start our discussion by diagnosing the fundamental problem within engineering education as it is commonly practiced. We will argue that this problem is closely related to traditional and idealized conceptions of what it means to do - and learn - engineering. In engineering 'problems' are framed in ways that installs technical problems at the center of attention and non-technical factors at the periphery - thus a demarcation between the technical core and the social periphery is established. The ethos of engineering culture thus reduce real world problems to ideal and well-defined technical problems in order to make them 'solvable' and 'operational'. As noticed by many critics of traditional engineering education installing this reductionism in engineering practice, comes at a cost. It tends to relegate social and cultural processes from the problem analysis and problem solving activity and engineering studens are discouraged to investigate real world problems and question established practices of problem solving.
Inspired by the work of philosopher John Dewey we see 'inquiry', the pursuit of open questions, as fundamental to science and engineering practice. We suggest that teaching and learning engineering should be more authentic to the actual practice of engineering and thus stimulate 'problem questioning' among the students. Inquiry is a fundamental human attitude towards complex problems and it is in fact counterproductive to let tight disciplinary framings- and strict 'object world' perspectives - be the only avenue to 'problem solving'.
By introducing cases from engineering and scientific practice we will illustrate how the perspectives of the Humanities and Social Sciences can be brought to bear in teaching the fundamentals of engineering and science. The cases - taken from history and contemporary society - will illustrate that actual 'problems' are not amendable to single-answer problem solving, but thorough reflections.
TitelProceedings from the 6th International Conference Engineering Education for Sustainable Development EESD13
Antal sider9
UdgiverCambridge University
Udgivelsesdatosep. 2013


KonferenceEngineering Education for Sustainable Development


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