Engaging students in Engineering through their everyday experiences - Eann Patterson

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Research has shown that students have a preference for teaching methods that include discussion, problem-solving, working in teams, outside speakers and visual presentations. It has also been shown that student success is a multiplicative function of ability and motivation. Motivation is significantly enhanced by guest speakers, field trips, student clubs and relevant/appealing applications. Traditional examples employed to illustrate basic engineering concepts often appear irrelevant and abstract to students, particular those from under-represented groups in engineering. This lack of perceived relevance to life as they have experienced can be very discouraging to students leading to a lack of interest and motivation causing poor recruitment, performance, and retention. Sets of lesson plans for first year Engineering courses have been produce as part of an NSF-funded project and provide real-life examples utilizing common themes with which students are familiar (www.EngineeringExamples.org). The lesson plans are based on the 5Es: Engage; Explore; Explain; Elaborate and Evaluate which was successful used in the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study in the 1980s. Examples involving bicycles, iPods and skateboards will be used to illustrate how relevance to student life and interests can improve interest, motivation and attention to study as demonstrated in data obtained from pilot studies.

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