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Using parallel enquiry-based interventions to engage and motivate engineering students

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conference contribution
posted on 10.10.2013 by Peter Willmot, Glynis Perkin
Engineering degrees are predominantly taught by highly skilled engineers and scientists but, like most discipline experts, relatively few of them are ever exposed to significant pedagogical training. The concepts and understanding of what motivates and engages students are generally understood but seldom put into practice. Nevertheless, engagement and retention are becoming increasingly important topics as the demands and expectations of UK students are increasing in line with the much higher tuition charges that are the result of recent government changes in the funding of Higher Education. Furthermore, the mind-sets of twenty-first century students are often mismatched with the expectations of their lecturers, who tend to assume intrinsic career motivation and blame poor performance on a lack of drive or ability. The challenge for universities is to enhance the acquisition of knowledge and skills by providing motivators, beyond that gained by the award of marks. This paper describes an innovative year-long module for first-year mechanical engineering students, which embraces competitive challenges, student-centred learning activities, problem solving, creative design and skills workshops. The activities sit alongside and provide motivators for the unaltered, traditionally taught engineering science curriculum. The concept has been developing for three years and anecdotal evidence had suggested there were positive benefits, so an independent evaluation was commissioned; funded by a small grant from the UK Higher Education Academy. The evaluation used a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods of enquiry and demonstrated that such interventions can not only inspire students but also help to create improved inter-student and staff-student relationships.



  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


WILLMOT, P. and PERKIN, G., 2011. Using parallel enquiry-based interventions to engage and motivate engineering students. IN: Collier-Reed, B. (ed.) Proceedings of the First Biennial Conference of the South African Society for Engineering Education, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 10-12 August 2011, pp. 313 - 321.


© South African Society of Engineering Education


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