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Author: Susan A. Ambrose and Marie Norman
When it comes to teaching, most faculty members enter the academy as “well intentioned gifted amateurs.”
In Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century, the authors ask, “What will or should engineering education be like today, or in the near future, to prepare the next generation of students for effective engagement in the engineering profession of 2020?” (NAE, 2005). To answer this question, we must look to engineering faculty—those who design the educational environment.
When engineering faculty members enter the academy, many—through no fault of their own—are not fully prepared for their role as educators. Although graduate schools have begun to focus more attention on developing teaching skills, the main focus continues to be on creating researchers. As a result, when most faculty members enter the academy, they are, as Kuh and associates note (2005), “well intentioned gifted amateurs” when it comes to teaching.
Furthermore, it has become increasingly clear that teaching and learning involve complex, interrelated intellectual, social, and emotional processes. Thanks to research in social psychology, the cognitive sciences, and education, we now know much more than we did 20 years ago about how cognition, motivation, and intellectual development affect learning and teaching. Unfortunately, universities have not successfully transmitted this information to faculty.
In this paper, we raise three questions germane to the task of preparing engineering faculty to educate students effectively. Our intention is to call attention to relevant findings from recent research to underscore the complexity and sophistication necessary for effective teaching and to argue for more recognition of teaching in the academic reward structure.
To improve engineering education, we must address three questions: