The following articles all appeared in
the Spring, 1998 issue of Success 101.
This is the fifth issue of Success
101. Its purpose is to provide a forum for
engineering faculty and administrators, engineering
student service staff, and minority engineering program
staff to share ideas about conducting an Introduction
to Engineering course that will significantly enhance
engineering students success. Articles which
appeared in the first four issues of Success 101
can be found on the Discovery Press web page: www.discovery-press.com.
It is my sense that we are making
significant progress in moving engineering education from
the "sink or swim"/"weed them out"
paradigm to one of "student develop-ment."
From 1991-94, I administered a National
Science Foundation Course and Curriculum Development
grant entitled "Improving Student Success Through a
Model Introduction to Engineering Course." My first
action was to establish a baseline on such courses by
sending a survey to all engineering colleges. The survey
sought to answer questions like: Do you have an
Introduction to Engineering course? Is it college-wide or
departmentalized? How many credit hours? What are the
course objectives? How much time do you spend on various
Completed surveys were obtained from
ninety-two percent of the 270 universities surveyed,
providing a comprehensive baseline. From the data
received, I was unable to locate a single required
freshman engineering course that had a primary focus on
student development and student success.
Most "Introduction to
Engineering" courses described covered
content-oriented and skills-building topics such as
computing, graphics, engineering design, creativity, and
problem solving. A few were of the more traditional
"Introduction to Engineering" courses, which
were limited primarily to exposing students to the
various engineering disciplines.
I look forward to repeating the same
survey in a few years. I am confident that it will
reflect the significant change I sense is occurring.
The signs are everywhere. Strong
impetus for this change has come from funding by the
National Science Foundation for the revision of
lower-division curriculum in engineering. ABET
Engineering Criteria 2000 has led us to move the
development of "soft skills" into the first
year curriculum so students can refine those skills for
their career while utilizing them in achieving success in
Articles on the efficacy of
"student success" courses for first-year
engineering students are appearing with greater frequency
in the Journal of Engineering Education and ASEE PRISM,
and more are on the way. In the first three academic
years since its publication, over 30,000 copies of Studying
Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career have
been adopted at more than 300 institutions, with a
growing number using it for their entire freshman class.
We have had overwhelming response to our NSF-sponsored
Chautauqua short course "Enhancing Student Success
Through a Model Introduction to Engineering Course."
In the past two-and-a-half years, almost 250 participants
have attended the three-day training in Los Angeles,
Atlanta, and Pittsburgh.
I hope that you will join this exciting
movement within engineering education. Through it, we can
ensure that our students maximize their potential and
reap the rewards and opportunities graduation in
engineering will bring to them. Our students will benefit
and so will we.
So What is Engineering?
by Kate Gibney
[Note: Reprinted by Permission from ASEE PRISM,
March, 1998, Ó1998 American Society for Engineering Education]
An innovative new course introduces high school
teachers and guidance counselors to basic information about the
How much do high school teachers and guidance
counselors really know about engineering? Not enough, according
to Raymond Landis, engineering and technology dean at California
State University, Los Angeles (Cal State L.A.). While touring
local high schools, Landis encountered a fair share of teachers
who felt unqualified to discuss engineering in the classroom. As
one physics teacher commented, I must have 80 students a year who
think that they want to be engineers, yet I know nothing of what
engineers do. He also found many counselors who believed a
similar lack of knowledge kept them from steering students toward
Landiss solution to this problem is to
offer secondary school teachers and counselors a course
specifically designed to answer the question: So whats
In December 1996, Landis approached the Los
Angeles-based ARCO Foundation with a proposal for such a course.
Called Introduction to Engineering for High School Teachers and
Counselors, it had three basic goals: 1) to give participants a
broad overview of engineering, highlighting its various
disciplines and industrial sectors; 2) to outline the different
aspects of the engineering education process, including the
course of study and the desired level of student preparation; and
3) to introduce new ways of working with students to promote
effective time management, positive peer interaction, and other
strategies important for success in engineering
school. The proposal sought support for a three-day summer
offering and a 10-week fall session of the class. Teachers and
counselors who completed the fall course would accrue two college
ARCO gave Cal State L.A. $22,000 to implement
the proposal. That funding covered participants registration
fees, textbooks, and class materials, and enabled the university
to offer attendees a $150 stipend to help defray travel expenses.
The Summer Pilot
Twenty-nine area high school teachers and
counselors attended the summer session. During three hectic days
in July, they toured several Cal State L.A. engineering
facilities, including the automated manufacturing lab. They also
participated in panel discussions with practicing engineers, who
described the work they did and fielded educators
questions, and attended a series of presentations by Landis and
other professors. These presentations focused on how to use the
Internet to access guidance materials about engineering,
addressed the importance of technology, outlined projected
engineering employment needs, and introduced a variety of
learning strategies highlighted in Landiss book Studying
Engineering that teachers could use to improve student
performance. Landis reports that while the visits to the
universitys Solar Eagle car lab and the panel discussion
with working engineers were by far the most popular activities,
attendees indicated that what they would use the most were the
The Fall Pilot
Upon the suggestion of several summer
participants, Landis added a panel discussion with engineering
students and a session with industry representatives to the fall
course offering, which attracted 15 participants. The success of
the fall session on the heels of the productive summer offering
convinced Landis to repeat both classes next year. He has
approached ARCO with a proposal for additional funding and for
the moment is concentrating on developing strategies to stimulate
Because high school teachers and counselors
often heavily influence students decisions about what major
to pursue in college, Landis thinks that promoting greater
awareness about engineering among them will help undercut the
recent downturn in enrollments at California engineering schools.
(The number of first-year engineering majors in California
four-year institutions dropped from 9,244 in fall 1982 to 7,534
in fall 1994.) The courses success could also serve
another, larger purpose by influencing other engineering colleges
to use a similar strategy to improve career guidance in
engineering in high schools in their area, he says.
For more information, contact Ray Landis at
(213) 343-4500; fax (213) 343-4555; e-mail:
Kate Gibney is assistant editor of ASEE PRISM.
Studying Engineering: A
Road Map to a Rewarding Career
Ray Landis has prepared three 25- question multiple choice
exams for instructors to use with his textbook Studying
Engineering. The first exam covers Chapters 1 and 2; the
second exam covers Chapters 3 and 4; and the third exam covers
Chapters 5 and 6.
Although essay and short answer exams would be more effective
in measuring students comprehension and retention of the
material in the text, the multiple choice exams provide a tool
for the instructor to use (without excessive grading time
demands) in motivating students to take assignments to read the
To receive copies of the three exams and solution keys, send
your name, title, and mailing address to: email@example.com.
CALL FOR PAPERS
ASEE Freshman Programs Division
The Freshman Programs Division is seeking papers for
the 1999 ASEE Annual Conference to be held June 20-23, 1999 in
Charlotte, North Carolina. Topics should focus on educational
activities associated with first-year engineering students. The
division will consider papers in the following topic areas:
computer and computer software use in instruction; advising and
orientation programs; creative problem-solving courses;
innovative approaches to first-year engineering education;
project-based learning and hands-on courses; retention programs;
pre-college programs and linkages with K-12 education;
recruitment programs; and integrating design into the freshman
year. Submit a one-page abstract by September 30, 1998 to Michael
Gregg, Virginia Tech, Engineering Fundamentals Division, College
of Engineering, Blacksburg, VA 24061 (Telephone: (540) 231-9544;
Fax: (540) 231-6903; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Meet the Authors
ASEE ANNUAL CONFERENCE IN SEATTLE
Come visit us (Steve Cheshier, Ray Landis, and Marty Roden) at
the Discovery Press booth (#419) in the Exhibit Hall at the ASEE
Annual Conference, June 29-July 1, 1998 in Seattle, Washington.
We would be pleased to talk with you about our three texts
Studying Engineering Technology: A Blueprint for Success by
Stephen R. Cheshier, Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a
Rewarding Career by R. B. Landis and Electronic Design:
From Concept to Reality, Third Edition by M. Roden and G.
You are also invited to attend Session #2653. In this session,
sponsored by the ASEE Freshman Programs Division, Ray Landis will
present a paper entitled, "Enhancing Engineering Student
Success: Working With Students to Change Their Attitudes."
The session is scheduled from 4:30 - 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June
Biographies of Successful Engineers
One effective strategy for strengthen-ing students
commitment to engineering is exposure to role models. An
excellent way to bring about this exposure is to encourage
students to read biographies of successful engineers.
This is the second list (see Success 101, Issue #4,
Fall, 1997) of recommended books prepared by Cal State L.A.
Engineering Librarian Steve Sottong. Inquires or recommendations
can be sent to:
Note: All of the books listed are available for
purchase on the Internet through either:
Bucky Works: Buckminister Fullers Ideas for Today,
by J. Baldwin, John Wiley & Sons, 1997 (ISBN #0471198129). From
the publisher: Baldwin worked with Fuller on and off for
33 years and his book synthesizes Buckys major concepts and
inventions in language that will inspire readers to think about
alternative ways of living and building a better future.
The First Nuclear Era: The Life and Times of a
Technological Fixer, by Alvin Martin Weinberg, American
Institute of Physics, 1994 (ISBN #1563963582. From the
publisher: The First Nuclear Era is Alvin Weinbergs
autobiography, the memoirs of a most influential American nuclear
engineer/ physicist. He describes his academic career at the
University of Chicago, his wartime days at the Manhattan Project,
and his involvement with nuclear reactors. Weinberg offers an
objective critique of the technical and political shortcomings
that have haunted the nuclear age.
Alexanderson: Pioneer in American Electrical Engineering,
By James E. Brittain, Published by Johns Hopkins University
Press, 1992 (ISBN #080184228X). From the publisher:
Ernst F. W. Alexanderson came to the United States from Sweden in
1901. A prolific inventor in the fields of radio, television,
power transmission, electric railways, radar, and computers, he
secured more than 340 U.S. patents¾
the last one in 1973 at the age of 95. Brittain treats themes
that remain of vital interest today, including the issue of
creativity in a corporate setting, the distinctions between
science and engineering, the importance of corporate style and
culture, and the role of the military in bringing about
The Innovators: The Engineering Pioneers Who Made
America Modern, by David P. Billington, John Wiley &
Sons (ISBN #0471140260). From the publisher: Mr.
Billington emphasizes the innovations that were truly basic to
U.S. industrialization. The author uses a three-sided view to
describe American engineering history¾
what great engineers actually did; the political and economic
conditions within which they worked; and the influence that these
designers and their achievements had on the nation.
Journeys of Women in Science and Engineering: No
Universal Constants, by Susan A. Ambrose, Barbara B.
Lazarus, and Indira Nair, Temple University Press, 1997 (ISBN
#1566395275). From the author: In Journeys,
we wanted to represent the vagaries of experience and
interactions, the diversity, the joys and troubles of women
working as scientists and engineers in the U.S. today. Our hope
is that people will find these lives resonating with theirs in
some places, carry away an inspirational statement or two, and
get an overall picture of the history and sociology of women in
science and engineering.
Working With Students to Change Their Attitudes
(Note: This section is excerpted from R. B. Landis,
"Enhancing Engineering Student Success: Working With
Students to Change Their Attitudes," Proceedings of 1998
ASEE Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.)
Establishing a goal provides a criterion that can be used to
judge student attitudes as either negative or positive. Negative
attitudes are defined as those that lead to non-productive
behaviors¾ i.e., behaviors that tend
to interfere with students success in engineering study.
Positive attitudes are defined as those that lead to productive
behaviors¾ i.e., behaviors that
support students success in engineering study.
Among those negative attitudes that can inhibit the academic
performance of first year engineering students are:
Weak commitment to engineering as a choice of major
Unrealistic view of what is expected (e.g.,
Lack of self-worth (i.e., tendency to sabotage ones
External "locus-of-control" (i.e., victim role)
Unwillingness to seek help
Resistance to change (e.g., personal growth and
Tendency toward procrastination (e.g., negative view
toward time management)
Avoidance of areas of weakness or perceived unpleasantness
(e.g., written communications, interpersonal interaction,
Reluctance to study with other students
Negative view toward authority figures (e.g., parents,
How is it that bright, academically prepared first-year
engineering students could hold a series of negative attitudes
that threaten their very success in engineering study, and not do
anything about the situation? One would think that such students
as logical thinkers and analytical problem-solvers would identify
the "problem" and solve it. The reasons so many
students dont do so should provide a serious incentive for
engineering educators to commit to providing the help students
need to understand the attitudes that are driving them.
Exercise For Changing Student Attitudes
The following describes a practical five-step approach for
working with students to uncover (i.e., become conscious of)
negative attitudes and attempt to change them.
Step 1. Conduct an exercise during class in
which you ask students to identify key areas about which their
attitudes (positive or negative) are likely to have an impact on
their success in engineering study. During this brainstorming
session, write all responses on the blackboard. Feel free to add
a few of your own.
Step 2. Pick 5-10 of the areas listed, and as a
homework assignment have each student write down three positive
attitudes and three negative attitudes they have about each area.
Step 3. During the class period at which the
homework assignment is due, have volunteers share negative
attitudes they have about one of the areas. Ask each respondent
to answer the question: "Is this attitude working for me or
against me?" Note that you may find in some cases that what
students perceive as a negative attitude may in fact be working
for them (e.g., a negative attitude toward the inertia of the
university bureaucracy may have taught the student to be more
effective in how he or she approaches dealing with it).
Step 4. For each attitude that is not working
for a student, ask him or her: "Do you know why you hold
this attitude? Where did it come from?" In some cases, the
attitude may have a legitimate source. For example, a student
that is taking 16 credit hours and working 40 hours a week may
have a very legitimate reason for resenting the amount of
homework he or she is requested to do. In such a case, the
possibility of eliminating the source of the negative attitude
can and should be explored.
The primary purpose of asking students to identify the source
of negative attitudes is to emphasize that in most cases negative
attitudes were learned and hence can be unlearned. Another way to
illustrate to students that attitudes are not absolute is to have
several students in the class describe their attitude about a
specific issue (e.g., "What is your attitude about this
class and what we are doing here today?"). Seeing that their
peers have much more positive attitudes can have a strong impact
on a students negative thinking.
Step 5. For each attitude that is not working
for a student, ask him or her: "Can you change the attitude
to one that will work for you?" Teach students that one of
the best techniques for changing a negative attitude to a
positive one is to find a higher context for their thinking. For
engineering students, the most appropriate higher context is
their goal of success in graduating in engineering.
For example, lets imagine that a student relates that
she is failing math because the professor is boring, unprepared,
never smiles, and doesnt like her. This students has
developed the belief that: "I cant pass a course if I
dont like the professor." The student has adopted an
external locus-of-control view in which passing her math course
is viewed as totally in the control of the professor. It is
important that she become "conscious" that this is a
negative attitude (one that interferes with her goal of success
in engineering study) and that it can be changed. Suggestions
from the class might lead her to change her attitude to: "I
can pass a class when I dont like the professor, but it is
going to require me to adopt alternate strategies and to put in
more work." This positive attitude might lead to behaviors
that include sitting in on another instructors lectures,
seeking help from students who passed the course last semester,
utilizing the tutors in the math lab, or practicing using old
Active Learning Strategies: Why All the Resistance?
Faculty tend to resist changing from the lecture format to
active learning pedagogies. An Introduction to Engineering
course having a "student development" focus is no place
for one-way communication. Changing students behavior and
changing students attitudes will not occur without their
Dr. Janet Fisher-Hoult, Director of the Center for Effective
Teaching and Learning at Cal State L.A., provided the following
list of reasons why faculty dont use active learning:
Educational tradition: faculty lecture; students take
The old model worked for me; why not for my student?
My class is too large to do active learning.
I have too much content to cover in lecture.
I dont want to change.
Whats in it for me?
Too much prep time is required.
I dont want to take risks, to lose control of my
What will my colleagues think?
I dont know how to do it.
Any of these sound familiar?
ENHANCING STUDENT SUCCESS
"Enhancing student success" means changing student
attitudes and changing student behaviors. An effective
"student success" course focuses on bringing about
behavioral and attitudinal changes in areas related to five key
In order for you to personally assess the potential benefit of
a "student success" course, you are encouraged to
consider the behavioral and attitudinal objectives listed below
from three perspectives:
Would first year engineering students be more successful
if they practiced these behaviors and held these attitudes?
Do your first year engineering students currently hold
these attitudes and practice these behaviors to the extent
you would like?
If your answer to #1 is "Yes" and your answer to
#2 is "No," do you believe that it would be
possible to achieve the objectives listed below?
1. COMMUNITY BUILDING
Students in the "Introduction to Engineering"
course make up a supportive learning community.
student in the class knows every other student in the class.
Group building¾ Students
have a strong sense of group and are committed to a high level of
Human relations training¾
Students have the interpersonal skills necessary to interact
with each other in a positive and effective manner.
2. PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Students are motivated by a clear under-standing of
engineering as a profession. Students conduct themselves
ethically and in a professional manner at all times.
are highly motivated through a clear understanding of the rewards
and opportunities success in engineering study will bring to
Understanding of engineering¾
Students can give an articulate response to the question
"What is engineering?" Students are aware of the
various academic disciplines and job functions of engineering.
Students are aware of the various industry sectors (e.g.,
computer, aerospace, electronic, utility, oil, large
constructors, etc.) and of how engineers are utilized in each of
Professional student organizations¾
Students recognize the value of actively participating in
student organizations, particularly those related to their chosen
profession (ASME, ASCE, IEEE, etc.) and seek to take on
leadership roles in those organizations.
Ethics and professionalism¾
Students are aware of good ethical and professional practice
and engage in such practice at all times.
3. ACADEMIC DEVELOPMENT
Students know about and put into practice positive
attitudes and productive behaviors that will result in academic
Interaction with faculty¾
Students interact regularly with their professors both in the
classroom and outside of it, positively and with benefit.
Interaction with peers¾
Students make effective use of their peers by frequent
sharing of information and by regularly engaging in group study
and collaborative learning.
Students are aware of and make optimal use of campus
resources (e.g., writing center, counseling center, health
center, library, placement center, etc.).
Time on task¾ Students
manage their time so as to devote an appropriate amount of time
and effort to studying and are operating under the principle that
they master the material covered in each class period before the
next class period comes.
Time on campus¾ Students
are aware of the importance of being immersed in the academic
environment so that they can take full advantage of the resources
available to them, and therefore spend as much time on campus as
Other study skills¾
Students are aware of and practice good study skills in other
areas (e.g., note taking, test taking, etc.).
4. PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
Students have a good understanding of and feel good
about themselves and their educational experience. Students
interact well with and respect others, engage in good health and
wellness practices, and effectively manage the various aspects of
their personal life.
Understanding of self¾
Students' personality traits, learning styles and brain
dominance have been assessed using standard instruments, and they
have a strong understanding of themselves as unique individuals.
Self-confidence and self-esteem¾
Students feel good about themselves and their situation, and
are confident in their ability to succeed academically.
have clear goals and have a plan for their personal development
based on a self-assessment of their strengths and weaknesses.
Wellness and stress management¾
Students engage in good health and wellness practices and
know how to manage stress through stress-reduction methods.
Respect for and interaction with others¾ Students value and respect
differences in people and interact effectively with people of all
cultures, ethnicities and genders.
Management of personal life¾
Students are effective in managing the various aspects of
their personal life, including interaction with family and
friends, personal finances, work load, etc.
Students understand how the engineering college and the
university work and how best to take advantage of the resources
available to them.
College of engineering¾
Students understand the organizational structure, facilities,
resources and regulations of the college of engineering and make
effective use of them.
understand the organizational structure, facilities, resources
and regulations of the university and make effective use of them.
Building Advocacy for "Student Success"
Courses for Engineering Freshmen
by Ray Landis
A key to establishing "student success" courses for
engineering freshmen is effective advocacy on the part of
engineering faculty. Only through such advocacy will these
courses negotiate the rocky road through the curricular approval
process at departmental and college-wide levels.
At last years NSF-sponsored Chautauqua short course
"Enhancing Student Success Through a Model Introduction to
Engineering Course," participants engaged in an exercise to
develop both reasons for and reasons against such courses. One
group of overly enthusiastic volunteers agreed to form the
"dreaded curriculum committee" and spent time
articulating their opposition. Five other groups spent time
developing their points in favor. Presentations before the mock
committee yielded the following pros and cons:
Given in Favor of Course
Given in Opposition to Course
|View this as a
"pilot" for one year. We want to try something
new and innovative.
never go away.
improve student learning in other courses.
"coddling" students. What happens when this
"crutch" is removed?
improve student retention and help sustain strong
||No room in the
curriculum. Will increase units to graduation.
improve diversity of engineering students.
||Maybe okay for
non-traditional students. Why make all students take it?
recognizes the need to provide transition from high
school to university.
course insults students intelligence.
been proven effective at other institutions.
||Do you have
hard data that shows these courses improve retention?
evaluate the effectiveness of the course.
correct deficiencies in students that faculty complain
||None of our
faculty will want to teach such a course.
students choose their engineering discipline.
will try to sell students on his/her discipline.
improve student satisfaction with their educational
engineering freshmen are irrelevant.
responsive to ABET Engineering Criteria 2000.
integrate across existing courses (i.e., "student
success across the curriculum")?
responsive to what industry wants from engineering
wants it, let them do it!
lead to more effective use of $$ (i.e., less failure).
resources to something we dont believe will work?
As you can see, powerful and potentially persuasive points can
be made on both sides. The purpose of this article is to assist
you in becoming an effective advocate for "student
success" courses for engineering students. Effective
advocacy requires not only the ability to articulate your case,
but also an understanding of the opposition and an ability to
address their concerns.
The Name Game: Its All in How You
The first issue of Success 101 contained the
following article on "The Name Game."
Strong peer support can be a key to success in
engineering study. The benefits of sharing information, group
study, and integration of ones academic life and social
life are enormous. Consequently, building your students into
a learning community will benefit them more than perhaps any
other thing you can do.
The first step in building a learning community is
helping students get to know one another as a minimum by
name. Set as a goal that each student in your class can call
the first and last name of every other student in the class
without hesitation. This can be accomplished by devoting a
few minutes in each class period to "The Name
Form students randomly into groups of six or seven. In
their groups, the first student introduces himself or herself
(first and last name); the second student introduces the
first student and then himself or herself; the third student
introduces the first two students and then himself or
herself. Continue until each student can introduce all
students in the group (generally takes about five minutes).
Mix groups each class period. Repeat exercise until
every student in the class can introduce every other student
(generally five or six class periods for a class of 30). You
should sit in on the groups during the exercise. In this way,
you can learn the names of the students in your class.
Other attributes can be added such as major, hometown,
favorite hobby, etc. For example, first student gives name,
major, hometown, and favorite hobby. Second students gives
all of the attributes of the first student and then
his or hers. And so forth.
Lets say youve read this and youre
convinced. With great enthusiasm, you go to your next class
meeting and announce the following to your students:
"Ive just read an article that convinced me that we
should learn each others names, and were going to
spend a few minutes each period doing a name learning
exercise." How do you think your students would react?
You might want to check out an article in the November, 1997
issue ASEE PRISM: "Enhancing Student Success: A
Five-Step Process for Getting Students to Study Smart." The
approach presented there would be a sure fire way to accomplish
your purpose. Heres a summary of the process.
Step 1 - Establish a baseline
Go to class and ask your students: "How many of you could
name all of the students in this class? How many of you could
name half of the students in the class? How many of you could
name the student sitting on your right and the student sitting on
Step 2 - Deliver Knowledge
If your experience matches mine and you find that your
students do not know each other, explain the benefits of being
part of a learning community. Have the students do a
brainstorming exercise to identify a list of ways they could
benefit from knowing each other.
Step 3 - Build Commitment
Seek your students opinions on whether the benefits of
being part of a learning community would be of value to them. Ask
them whether they would like to know each other. Try to get them
to agree to learning each others names, even if just to see
what its like to be in a class where everyone knew each
Step 4 - Implementation
Conduct "The Name Game" as described above.
Step 5 - Process outcomes
Near the end of the term, ask the students to write a one-page
critique describing any differences they experi-enced by knowing
all the students in the class. On the day the assignment is due,
ask several students to read their critiques aloud. Ask other
students to comment and give their views.
Engineering faculty who have conducted this exercise have
reported significant changes including improved attendance,
increased energy level, more attention to homework, and more
in-class questions. Learning communities work. But
its not only what you do; its how you do it.
by Mark Tufenkjian, Cal State
Community building should be a key component to any
"Introduction to Engineering" course aimed at enhancing
student success. An effective way I have found to introduce
community building in my "Introduction to Engineering"
class is through the use of survival simulations.
One particularly effective survival simulation is the
"Sub-Artic Survival Situation" developed by Human
Synergistics International. The objective of the simulation is to
build team consensus and develop decision-making skills by
presenting a survival challenge in a remote area. The sub-artic
survival situation is a scenario in which a plane crash has
marooned survivors in a frigid and isolated environment with only
minimal salvaged items. Team members are required to rank these
items individually and then as a group, according to their
survival value. The team ranks are compared to an
"experts" rank in order to provide a frame of
reference. Generally, the team rank outscores the individual rank
indicating efficient use of the groups resources and team
synergy. However, on occasion, individual rankings may outscore
the group scores indicating a breakdown in group dynamics.
Possible reasons for group breakdowns may be discussed with the
students. Through this process, students are exposed to the
behaviors and skills necessary for effective teamwork.
The exercise is easy to facilitate. Participant booklets and a
video describe the scenario (complete with a topographic map of
the sub-artic region) and present the survival challenge. A
scoring grid facilitates individual and team score comparisons.
Especially dramatic is the accompanying video, which uses a
sight-and-sound reenactment to provide a sense of realism that
immediately engages the students.
I have found that the sub-artic survival simulation is fun and
naturally encourages student participation. It is a good
"icebreaker" for a freshman orientation class, and
since the simulation is interactive and team-oriented, students
gain an understanding of what is involved in the group
decision-making process (group dynamics). Students learn that in
order to "survive," they must cooperate and support one
another, that the collective is greater than the individual, and
that teamwork is necessary for enhancing their success in their
academic and professional careers.
Note: Human Synergistics International may be contacted at
1-800-622-7584, or through their web site at www.humansyn.com.
Are We Teaching Moral Literacy in Our Ethics Courses?
by Irving Kett, California State University,
An increasing number of engineering schools today offer a
freshman orientation course that at least spends some time on the
question of ethics. This is quite a departure from how the
subject of ethics was approached in American universities a
century ago. In those days, the ethics course was offered in the
senior year, as a culmination of college life, and the message
was directed toward one goal¾ to
raise the moral standards of society.
Today, much of what we include in our ethics courses is not
aimed at personal morality, but rather at impersonal social
issues such as euthanasia, abortion, and DNA research. Topics
such as cheating, lying, hypocrisy, plagiarism, and
self-deception are rarely even touched upon. This approach flies
in the face of the urgent need to confront the issues of moral
relativism that generally plagues society and particularly the
students entering our colleges and universities.
The problem of cheating has become so endemic in our culture
that a student I know raised the question: WHAT IS YOUR DEGREE
WORTH? Cheating begins in the grade schools, continues on to
high school, and then to college. It is demoralizing to those
students who do not cheat and generally denigrates the whole
academic climate. Even the military academies, where the honor
system has been enshrined for generations, have been rocked of
late by cheating scandals.
Cheating is a symptom, albeit a serious and important one, of
a general societal moral malaise. Those who get through school by
cheating will have little compunction to steal from their
employers and show little regard for the responsibilities that an
engineer should have toward society.
In my opinion, the three areas of ethical considerations which
should be included in a freshman orientation course, in the order
of emphasis, are:
Moral behavior on the personal level
Professional responsibilities of the engineer
Attitudes toward questions involving social policies
It seems to me that the academic community has an obligation
of transmitting ethical behavior along with technical excellence
to young engineering students.
Learning to Learn:
Self-Directed Learning Projects
by Mary Heather
Hannah, University of Arkansas
People learn about many things¾ sports,
hobbies, careers, music, art, current events, and the like¾ outside of
formal educational institutions. Often times a person will pursue
a learning project with little or no formal planning. Allen
Tough's 1979 book The Adult's Learning Projects lists
several steps undertaken by successful self-directed learners.
According to Tough self-directed learners will:
identify specific knowledge
and skills needed to complete the learning project
decide on activities,
materials, resources, and equipment needed to begin the
decide where to learn
decide when to learn
set the pace of learning
set specific deadline or
determine criteria for
secure needed resources and
contact necessary resource people
obtain money, as necessary
create a learning environment
detect personal learning
obstacles and inefficiencies
sustain motivation by
confronting motivational blocks
revise plans and goals, as
Each person learns differently
and, as such, will approach a self-directed learning (SDL)
project differently. For example, I decide I want to learn about
France. I could go to the library and find a book on France; I
could obtain a language tape and learn to speak French; I could
purchase a plane ticket and go to France. All of these learning
plans could be implemented; however, the most appropriate plan
depends on my goals and objectives.
Personal Learning Project
This exercise allows students to
practice planning a SDL project and to discuss differences among
personal learning styles. Materials needed for this exercise
include a large sheet of flip chart paper, colored markers,
masking tape, and Tough's steps, for reference. The teacher must
select a topic for the self-directed learning project appropriate
for the average age of the students and their general interests.
Possible topics may include identifying career opportunities for
engineers or discriminating between several types of engineering.
The teacher will break the class
into smaller groups of five or six and give each group a sheet of
paper and a couple of markers. The paper and markers are used to
record the learning plan. The students should be given the topic
and approximately 30 minutes to develop a learning plan. After
that time, the plans should be taped up so that everyone can see
them. Students should then discuss the similarities and
differences among the plans.
Remember, there are no right and
wrong answers, just different approaches to the same topic.
However, some approaches may work better than others.
Dr. Edward N. Prather, Assistant Dean of Engineering at the
University of Cincinnati, conducts a course for his students
entitled "Achievement, Motivation, and Success
Behaviors." Dr. Prather shared the following exercise he
uses to help his students better understand themselves.
Do I like myself? Explain in what ways "yes" and
in what ways "no."
How confident am I when I begin something new? In what
ways do I feel confident and in what ways insecure?
What do I do best? What do I do poorly?
Am I pleased with the way I treat others? Explain in what
ways "yes" and in what ways "no."
Am I pleased with the way others treat me? Explain in what
ways "yes" and in what ways "no."
Am I pleased with the way I do my work? Explain in what
ways "yes" and in what ways "no."
How do I describe myself to others?
Do I talk much about myself? How do I feel about being the
topic of conver-sation, both when I initiate it and when I do
When I do discuss myself, what are the topics and
contexts? Who are the other participants in the conversation?
In what areas do I report myself favor-ably and in what
Do I believe what I say about myself? Explain in what ways
"yes" and in what ways "no."
What are the characteristics of others whom I find
attractive? Explain how these characteristics are attractive.
What are the characteristics of others whom I find
unattractive? Explain how these characteristics are
Students are asked to prepare a written response to these
questions as a homework assignment. In class, students pair up
and discuss their written responses. Next a general class
discussion focuses on finding commonalities. The purpose is to
identify behaviors and attitudes that inhibit success and need to
Success 101 is published twice yearly (May 1 and
December 1) and mailed to approximately 3,000 engineering and
engineering technology educators. We are seeking articles for the
Fall, 1998 issue.
Deadline October 15, 1998
Submissions may range from very short (e.g., quotes,
exercises, activities) to up to two pages in the newsletter
(opinion pieces, success stories, letters to the editor). Submit
(preferably by e-mail or on disk) to:
c/o Dr. Raymond B. Landis
School of Engineering and Technology
California State University, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA 90032
Telephone: (213) 343-4500