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Enthuse Them or Lose Them: Engaging Students in their Discipline

Prof Peter Goodhew | University of Liverpool

Enthuse Them or Lose Them: Engaging Students in their Discipline

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Student engagement, implying that each student takes responsibility for deciding what and how to learn, is the utopian dream of every university teacher. The remaining fascinating task for the teacher would simply be to interrogate and support the student in his or her quest for understanding ? the perfect bilateral Socratic education. The everyday reality, as every engineering lecturer knows, falls somewhat short of this ideal. In this paper I suggest some ways in which we can configure an engineering education to maximise the engagement of each student while at the same time developing the crucial understanding of principles and concepts which will provide a sound foundation for 50 or more years of working life. Inevitably this must involve active rather than passive learning and I propose, in a new book published in October 2010, approaches to teaching and types of activity which can stimulate understanding at the same time as excitement, and thinking skills at the same time as team-working ability. The changes we need to make to re-engineer our engineering programmes are relatively modest, and they rely on an intelligent mix of technology, activity and challenge. There is no universal panacea, but many engineering colleges across the world are now adopting approaches which demonstrate that we know how to offer the student of engineering a very worthwhile and interesting experience. My message is ? let's just do it.