What works in Higher Education…

… and perhaps what doesn’t seem to be working.

Recently, thanks to a tweet from Jenni Case, I came across Michael Schneider’s and Franzis Preckel’s analysis on the influence of 105 variables influencing student learning performance in higher education [1].

Teaching staff are being urged to adopt new and supposedly better teaching methods than traditional lectures. With more than 60 different methods ranging from problem-based learning to flipped classrooms, it can be hard for even an experienced university teacher to know where to begin. And then there are dozens of student factors that also influence learning performance. Knowing which characteristics of students, teachers and instruction methods influence learning outcomes and by how much will be immensely helpful which is why this is an amazingly useful paper.

The results should be compulsory reading for everyone involved in university teaching.

Read on for more details and the results summary

Can Indian engineering regain its former shine?

India has produced some of the world’s greatest engineers and scientists and graduates hundreds of thousands of engineers annually. Mughal Indian civil engineering led the world 500 years ago. Therefore, today’s relatively slow progress towards a modern, sustainable, industrialized society is puzzling. India’s national productivity, along with many other low-income countries, lags advanced economies like USA, Japan, and Europe by a factor of about 5, a gap that has hardly changed in many decades.

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How important is STEM education?

Recent reports have highlighted Australia’s declining results in PISA testing of maths, science and reading capabilities of children. Some in particular have drawn attention to Australia’s relatively weak performance compared with China and Singapore. I am unsure what this means. Should we invest more in maths and science education?

The Singaporean government is making it harder for foreigners to work there. International company people I meet in Singapore complain that young Singaporeans cannot perform as well as foreigners and demand too much pay, and the government is trying to force companies to employ more locals.

Read more: I argue that STEM is not the most important priority

Culture, value perceptions shape engineering practice

{This is the plenary address I delivered last Friday at the World Engineering Convention – WEC2019. I entered the stage to loud music … a little unexpected … to help the large audience feel awake and energised at 9 am in the morning.}

Did you know…

In the UN documents detailing the Sustainable Development Goals, engineering is NOT mentioned at all?

We have to change that because engineering is crucial for implementing these goals.

Read more to understand how you can help

Engineering Heroes Podcast

I was honoured to invited to speak at the World Engineering Convention in Melbourne next Friday morning at 9 am. Dom and Mel Gioia interviewed me for their Engineering Heroes Podcast series. I hope it starts some interesting discussions around engineering communities in Australia and elsewhere. I launched into the interview with the ideas I was planning to talk about next Friday. So you can hear a preview here…

Well, you could have done… But I changed my mind.

I am going to take a different approach, more relevant to engineering globally, and with sustainability in mind. So the podcast is a kind of preview. Please join me next Friday in Melbourne to hear a different take on this. How culture and value perceptions influence engineering practice, and how we could transform our world.

Here’s the podcast link.

Transitioning to engineering practice

I was honoured to be asked to write a guest editorial for the European Journal of Engineering Education – it has just appeared on the journal web page here. (If you cannot access this article through your library, you can use this free download link. However this link only works for the first 50 requests so please only use it if you have no other way to access the article.)

If it were not for my status as Emeritus Professor and my inclination to pursue many ideas at the same time, as well as running our little company Close Comfort, I probably would not have tried to squeeze maybe too many ideas into the one article. So I hope you find it interesting and not too scatterbrained.

I still work with students from time to time. Recently one told me how helpful he found one of the things he learned from me, the idea that talking to people face to face was so much more effective at getting things to happen at work. He is still finishing his degree, and told me he was surprised how easily he got a job by following the method I advocate, and have refined for my new book here. It’s a small piece of evidence that reassures me that the ideas in my editorial piece have some value.

I will be talking more about this at the forthcoming World Engineering Convention in Melbourne at the end of November. By all means come along and meet me there if you can spare the time.

Let’s move on from climate debates

The recent weeks of “climate action” and “extinction rebellion” protests around the world have highlighted one thing: politicians have few responses other than “addressing the problem” (which means talking about it).

Why?

Mostly, it’s up to engineers to provide options, and we could all do a little more.

I will say more about this at the coming World Engineering Convention in Melbourne, November 21-24.

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Webinar: Engineering and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

The productivity difference or relative wealth gap between rich and poor countries has hardly shifted in decades. I will explain why neglecting engineering as a critical input has undermined efforts to close this gap.

Engineering educators have inadvertently contributed to this failure.

New research results point to solutions that could empower engineers to deliver long anticipated social and economic development in countries like India, Indonesia, Nigeria and China.

I will explain why implementing the global UN Sustainable Development goals like halting CO2 emissions requires these transformations in engineering and engineering education.

Wednesday, September 25 at 8 pm West Australian time; 5:30 pm India Standard Time; 12 pm GMT; 8 am US EDT.

Here is the recording: http://www.ifees.net/engineering-unsdgs/

(Photo credit: Bill Wegener at unsplash.com)

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We can educate better leaders!

How often do hear people saying we need better leaders?

We blame our slow responses to climate change on populist leaders. Thanks in part to populist leaders, women still face the same barriers as they did two or three decades ago. We are consuming earth’s irreplaceable resources, mineral and biological, far too fast to ensure future generations share the lifestyle we have today. We can change… but we need good leaders!

We hear time and again how people are losing their trust in leaders, politicians, institutions, and journalists. Where, they ask, are the Roosevelts, Kennedys, Churchills, Ghandis, and Mandelas who could lead us through these challenges?

We have run out of time to sit and wait for a phalanx of talented and inspiring leaders to emerge and rescue us.

I think we can make good leaders emerge much sooner. Universities could do that, but they need some new ideas.

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30-Second Engineering: the book is in print at last

A new way to understand engineers and engineering.

A big thank you to all the contributors: without their efforts as well, it would not have been possible.

Andrew McVeigh, Colin Brown, Donglu Shi, Doug Cooper, George Catalano, Gong Ke, Hung Nguyen, James Trevelyan, Jan Hayes, Jenn Stroud Rossman, John Blake, John Krupczak, Jonathon Scott, Jorge Spitalnik, Julia Lamborn, Kate Disney, Marlene Kanga, Matt Smith, Neill Stansbury, Paul Newman, Paul Shearing, Raj Kurup, Roger Hadgraft, Roma Agrawal, Sally Male, Sean Moran, Tim Sercombe, Tomás A. Sancho, Veena Sahajwalla.

Also thanks to Katie Crous, the copy editor, Elizabeth Clinton, and Kate Shanahan and their colleagues at Quarto Press.

The book goes on sale in four languages in October: English, Spanish, French and German.  Hopefully more will follow.