sábado, 11 de abril de 2015

Reviewing and reflecting on the "Educational Innovations that promote student engagement in Engineering" keynote

Review and Reflection

EDUCON - 2015

The second keynote session conducted by Stephanie Farrell (Rowan University, USA) during the EDUCON-2015 conference was an interesting one, just like the others, as she could rescue some historical background which was important to explain the phase we are facing now in Education, which is pertinent to the Engineering education as well.

Although we had a lot of good ideas for Education in the past, from philosophers and scholars, we were not able to use them. However, they played an important role, as our history is socially constructed and we needed the basis to develop a better Education.

The 20th century brought some advances in Developmental Psychology and  Cognitive Science and a better understanding of how the brain works and therefore how learning is processed. It was proved through the use of specific image techniques that active listening activates more areas of the brain than when the listening is passive.

Nowadays, we are facing a revolutionary phase in Education once again. This phase is composed by a huge set of information, knowledge, resources and everything we need to transform education.

We understand the pillars we need to change education (and the four pillars of learning: learning to do, learning to know, learning to be, learning to live with) and some more specific needs for changing practice in Engineering Education (technology, theory and evidence); we have a variety of new technologies available; a variety of resources; we also have solid educational theories, we have facts, proven experiences that passive learning doesn’t work as active learning. We have everything we need. However, we still have teachers offering an old way of passive teaching, disconnected to the reality and to the 21st century needs. Why that so?

A survey carried out in a Faculty in the USA showed that some teachers, even knowing about Research-based instructional strategies, don’t use them and argue that they do not do that so because of: class time, preparation time, students’ resistance, or lack of resources.
We have to improve the way engineering/vocational course is taught, by engaging students, preventing dropouts and studying retention; by connecting educational institutions to the work market and its needs; by exploring technology to benefit education improvement; by providing competence-based learning and integrated curriculum.

It takes a lot of time, energy to change a classroom, to improve education. Teachers need support just as students do too. Again, learning communities must be implemented, including a virtual one, so that time and task management can be facilitated.

Educational Institution administrators must be aware. They can not only send teachers to be professionally developed, but they have to make their work possible, to get also prepared so that they can speak “the same language” and thus dialogue.
They should be taking specific actions to actively support teaching, by making resources available, by promoting the establishment and maintenance of learning communities, by creating learning-teaching centers and thus making RBIS operation possible, by rewarding and promoting innovation, by promoting additional teacher and student assistance, by evaluating teachers according to their learning outcomes accomplishments, not by the quantity of classes orhours they work a day or by their evaluation results.

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