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Educational Simulation and Pedagogies of Engagement: Encouraging the Academic Transition of First-Year Engineering Students. Atsushi Akera (Rensselaer) Pamela Theroux (SUNY Albany / Rensselaer). IHSS1975 Social Dimensions of Engineering. Origins of “Social Dimensions of Engineering”.

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Educational Simulation and Pedagogies of Engagement:Encouraging the Academic Transition of First-Year Engineering Students

Atsushi Akera (Rensselaer)

Pamela Theroux (SUNY Albany / Rensselaer)

origins of social dimensions of engineering
Origins of “Social Dimensions of Engineering”

CORE Engineering


Integrative StudiesPilot Program

rensselaer s first year studies program
Rensselaer’s First Year Studies Program
  • Reserved for First-Year Students
  • Features
    • 25 student sections
    • Close interaction with instructors
  • Topics Courses
    • “Minds and Machines”
    • “Living in Cyberspace”
    • “Social Dimensions of Engineering””
rensselaer s first year studies program5
Rensselaer’s First Year Studies Program
  • Defined Pedagogic Strategies
  • Faculty Development Workshops
    • 2-day annual PAID workshops
  • Faculty Advisory committee
    • Community of Teachers

Critical thinking

Writing & communications

Teamwork & group work

Personal instructional attention

Focus on learning environment & community

Diversity & diverse learning styles

Appropriate use of instructional technology

integrative studies pilot program
Proposed focus on a student’s “academic transition”

Team-taught strategy

Humanities Faculty

Student Life Facilitator

Self-reflections on learning process (6-10 sessions)

Goal setting



Class Discussion


Time management

“Integrative Studies”Pilot Program
integrative studies pilot program8
Fall 2005 Courses / Collaborations

Varieties of Religious Experience (Gordon/Gutmann & Virkus)

Growing Up in America (Gowdy/Gutmann & Trahan)

Minds & Machines(Van Heuveln - Masulo)

Social Dimensions of Engineering (Akera - Theroux)

Fall 2006 Courses / Collaborations

Rhetoric, Democracy & Media (Haskins & Redding)

Minds & Machines(Van Heuveln – Masulo)

Social Dimensions of Engineering

(Akera – Trahan)

Actual Transition Topics

What are our goals for this course? (goals)

What’s the value of an academic text? (reading)

Why is it important to listen as well as speak? (discussion)

What makes for a good presentation? (oral comm.)

What is Dr. Akera looking for in the weekly thought pieces? (writing)

What makes group work work? (teamwork)

How do you deal with the mid-semester crunch? (time management)

“Integrative Studies”Pilot Program
core engineering renaissance

Core EngineeringRenaissance

School of Engineering

Core Engineering Office

Kevin Craig, Director

Rensselaer Colloquium

on Teaching and Learning

May 10-11, 2004

objectives of the core engineering renaissance

“Engineering” in first year


Fundamental body of knowledge

Foundational skills (modeling, analysis, measurement)

Develop technical curiosity

Engineering practice

Professional breadth & development

Objectives of theCORE Engineering Renaissance
educational entrepreneurial simulation
Course Design

50% Team Projects

50% Individual readings

Educational /Entrepreneurial Simulation
peer based learning
Substantial scale

Open ended exercises

Competitive modeling

Diverse solutions

Peer critique

Past work archive

Peer Based Learning
pedagogies of engagement
Pedagogies of Engagement
  • Appealing to student interests
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Technical content / reverse engineering
  • Empowering students
    • Open ended exercises
    • Trust in ability to generate knowledge
    • Self-selected units & readings
  • Working from student skills & abilities
    • Don’t assume they’re illiterate / can’t write
    • Peer modeling works well here
pedagogies of engagement24
Pedagogies of Engagement
  • Peer based learning
    • Major motivational strategy (peer impressions)
    • Demonstration of humanistic knowledge as valued
  • Educational simulation
    • Brings “real world” knowledge to bear upon learning process
    • Synergistic with teamwork / group work strategies
  • Self reflective sessions on learning process
    • Learning how to learn
    • Increased skills & tolerance for reading & humanities
    • Necessary for “critical thinking” & “critical wisdom”
vehicle for the delivery of sts concepts
Vehicle for the Delivery of“STS Concepts”
  • Social construction
  • Technoscience
  • Valence
  • Organizational dynamics in engineering
  • Social relations of technology
  • Ethics of complex systems
  • Science & technology relation
  • Historicizing engineering education
associated objectives
Associated Objectives
  • Weekly writing assignments
  • Oral communications & presentation
  • Teamwork
  • Economic globalization
  • Interest in engineering practice
  • Choice of engineering field & vocation
  • Practical integration of STS concepts
fall 2005 assessment criteria for assessment
Primary Objectives

P1 Critical Thinking

P2 Teamwork

P3 Synthesis & Retention

Content Based Objectives

C1 Social Dimension of Engg

C2 Social & Professional Responsibility

C3 Sense of Engineering Workplace

C4 Engineering Identity

FYS Objectives

F1 Writing

F2 Mentoring & Faculty-Student Relation

--- Effective Teamwork (see P2 above)

--- Professional Ethics (see C2 above)

F3 Community Building

F4 Diversity / Perspectives

F5 Engaged Learning

F6 Instructional Technology

Academic Transition Objectives

T1 Reading Academic Texts

T2 Presentations

T3 Listening

T4 Time Management

T5 Learning Process / Reflexivity

Fall 2005 AssessmentCriteria for Assessment
fall 2005 assessment assessment instruments
Fall 2005 AssessmentAssessment Instruments
  • Pre-post comparative essays
  • Synthesis essays
  • Weekly thought pieces
  • Team projects
  • Class participation
  • Focus groups
  • Student survey
  • Instructors’ survey
fall 2005 assessment assessment rubric
Scale of +5/-5 assessment (for each objective)

5: Outstanding progress

4: Significant progress

3: Notable progress

2: Some progress

1: Negligible progress

0: No change

-5: Complete disengagement

-4: Significant regression

-3: Notable regression

-2: Some regression

-1: Minor regression

Fall 2005 AssessmentAssessment Rubric
student work examples
Student work (examples)

To the question: “What is an engineer?”(Post essays, Pre/Post Comparison)

  • “Engineers are driven both by an inherent desire to create and by the economic necessities of society. Thus, when the requirements of society are sometimes in conflict with the ideal of the engineer, the engineer is often required to determine how far from the engineering ideal the final artifact will diverge. The engineer is therefore not only a creator of technical change, but also an integral player in the development and evolution of society. These aspects of engineering are certainly visible in many of this semester’s readings.” -EB
  • “I may actually have a less clear picture of what exactly an engineer is after taking this course,than I did before. Though I knew there were several different types of engineering, I did not have the picture in my head of the broad range of careers that can be considered engineering. Engineers span from the “computer nerds” that sit busily typing away in the basements of companies, consumed by their work as in Kidder’s Soul of a New Machine, to Thomas Edison’s charismatic nature in Hughes’ Networks of Power, which causes him to follow a product from its invention through its development, through the politics, to its widespread use. Engineering can fly off in a third direction again, where, as in Latour’s Science in Action, it begins to be confused with science.” -HN
student work examples33
Student work (examples)


  • A reasonably developed sense of engineering identity
  • Some facility with STS concepts (sociotechnical, mutually shaping, “integral”)
  • Retention of knowledge

But also…

  • “An engineer is a person involved in the design and construction of technical innovation. An engineer is someone inventive as well as a very technically based way of thinking. They are involved in the most important phase of construction. They are the ones who plan every thing out and design the initial basis for all aspects of construction.” -IN
  • “An engineer makes society a better place to live in. An engineer develops products that either the market demands or some new technology that an engineer believes that society cannot live without. An engineer sometimes tries to beat nature for human needs.” -SS