All the nuts and bolts

22nd April 2005 at 01:00
Effective Learning and Teaching in Engineering Edited by Caroline Baillie and Ivan Moore RoutledgeFalmer pound;24.99

Fundamental to successful engineering education is the need to step back and see the way in which all human disciplines play their part, from geography and history, through economics and management to the scientific disciplines, as well as art and design.

This book contains a wealth of interesting ideas and methods which demonstrate that engineering is essentially multidisciplinary and interdiscplinary: no single engineering discipline suffices when the holistic nature of problem-solving is taken into account. For example, did you know that the word "understand" can mean "see", "conceptualise" or "experience" to different people? Do you really know the difference between surface learning and deep learning? Shirley Booth explains all in the light of her research into the pedagogy of awareness.

Like this contribution, some of the chapters are applicable to other disciplines, yet even these put matters into an engineering context.

Widening access using flexible and work-based learning, learning at a distance, personal development planning, integrated learning and reflective learning, all increased my insight and awareness of some effective teaching tools.

Within the specific engineering chapters, Claire Davis and Elizabeth Wilcox give a real insight into how case studies can form an effective basis for teaching academic engineering concepts. They also indicate pitfalls, particularly where students are expected to develop their own case studies.

Fred Maillardet's account of the Engineering Council's Standards and Routes to Registration 3rd edition (1997), known as SARTOR3, and the emphasis it put on Input Standards, is probably the most interesting account of this very dry subject I have read. The chapter on the development of the engineering professor's council output standards is also of great interest.

It's just such a pity that for a book published last year, this chapter was not updated to cover UK-SPEC, the Standard for Professional Engineering Competence, published in 2003 to replace SARTOR3. UK-SPEC does away with Input Standards and has introduced Output Standards, among much else of benefit to engineering education in the UK.

A chapter on EASEIT-Eng, centred at Loughborough University, shows how important it is to try to test computer software in the classroom. This fascinating project has been subsumed into LTSN - Engineering (now the HE Academy - Engineering Subject Centre), also based at Loughborough.

Jonathan Ling is director of professional development at the Institution of Incorporated Engineers

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