Hansberry, LA & Smith, ST 2016, 'Developing engineering sense through holistic engineering education', in Smith, ST, Proceedings of the 27th Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference, Southern Cross University, Coffs Harbour, NSW. ISBN: 9780994152046
Context: Both engineering industry and academia have long debated the skills a graduate engineer needs to enter the workforce, as there is a delicate balancing act of ensuring enough technical rigour in addition to societal relevance. Literature indicates that industry requires engineering graduates to possess a holistic understanding of engineering problems and solution pathways. This is occurring generally to a limited degree and hence intervention is required.
Purpose: The pilot research project reported herein has investigated the concept of ‘Engineering Sense’ as well as methods of developing this ‘sense’ in students in undergraduate engineering degrees.
Approach: The research has focussed on the subject ENG10757 Applied Mechanics, the first in the scaffolded structural engineering subjects offered at Southern Cross University in the undergraduate civil and mechanical engineering degrees that are currently offered. Lesson material was designed to introduce conceptual holistic information related to three topic areas deemed relevant to developing engineering sense, namely, (i) the subject topic content, (ii) industrial requirements of the engineering profession, and (iii) students’ motivations towards study. Three teaching techniques were also used, namely, elaborative rehearsal learning, meaningful learning, and the humanistic approach. Formative surveys were also used to assess the students’ abilities, motivations to study, and development in their understanding on a holistic conceptual basis as a result of the lessons. The surveys were also used to inform lesson development.
Results: The results of the project indicate an increase in conceptual knowledge of the three topic areas. Through including holistically focused content within traditional technical topics, in addition to identifying student motivations and educating students on the broad requirements of engineers in the twenty-first century, students developed an understanding, built knowledge and changed views on what is required of engineers.
Conclusions: This pilot research project has investigated the development of students’ knowledge base of technical topics in a holistic manner. This has been achieved through broadening student understanding of the engineering profession, as well as influencing motivations of learning towards what could be described as developing engineering sense. The methods utilised have provided positive results toward a holistic understanding within the bounds of the project. Future projects may extend the ideas generated herein.