Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Engineering of Learning

Greetings from the University of Wollongong where Dr Bror Saxberg of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is making the case for the engineering of education at the opening of the IEEE 7th International Conference on Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering (TALE).

Dr Saxberg's argument seems to be essentially the same as that for education based on research. That is, we need to teach students in ways which have been found to be effective. That may sound self-evident, but as he pointed out, with numerous examples, formal education is not necessarily using techniques show to be effective, and in some cases shown to not work. Dr Saxberg's described Maslow's hierarchy of needs, as like Aristotelian physics, in that it was not based on experimental research.

However, the problem I have found, is that just telling someone what works for education does not get them to do it. I even have difficulty convincing myself to do teaching differently, let alone others. Dr Saxberg might argue this requires putting the new techniques into long term memory. However, I suggest we need to also have people actually do things, to learn how to do them. It was only after I had used educational techniques, as a student of education, I was confident I could use them as a teacher.

Dr Saxberg pointed out that research shows learning requires persistence, through motivation. He said "you don't have to like it, you just have to do it". I suggest top-down educational design can help with this. As an example, I am designing a module to help STEM students reflect on learning. The first step is to align the learning objectives with external professional job requirements.

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