[EAS]Learning takes time

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Tue Sep 23 15:55:04 EDT 2003

Mail*Link¨ SMTP               Learning takes time

Some comments by a Purdue engineering professor, about the rather
startling time habits of engineering freshmen, and of involving them
more in engineering in ways that they enjoy (which differ from what
we most typically do). 

It's a short piece, well worth your time. The actual ASEE PRISM
article is available online through our library. --PJK

Date: 9/23/03 10:43 AM
From: Rick Reis
"In a recent study, almost 25 percent of first-year students reported 
they study less than 10 hours per week outside of class, with only 12 
percent saying they spend more than 25 hours on school work."
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The posting below provides provides some suggestions on how to get 
your students to spend more time studying.  While the examples are 
from engineering much of what is said applies across the board.  The
article is by  By Phillip Wankat and Frank Oreovicz  from the 
September, 2003 issues of ASEE Prism, Volume 13, Number 1. 
<http://www.asee.org/prism/>. Copyright © 2003 ASEE, all rights 
reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Rick Reis
reis at stanford.edu
UP NEXT: The Dollars and Sense Behind General Education Reform

			         Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

-------------------------- 494 words ----------------------------


By Phillip Wankat and Frank Oreovicz

There's no getting around it. Learning requires a certain amount of 
time, but many students would rather be checking their e-mail or 
chatting with friends than hitting the books.

The problem is that engineering is a particularly rigorous course of
 study, requiring more discipline than many young people have. We 
believe engineering colleges should increase the hours of structured
 in-class time for first- and second-year students. More courses 
should involve extensive recitations with students doing cooperative
 group problem solving. A supplemental instruction course coupled
with  a core course is another alternative. This method centers on
group  problem-solving sessions run by instructors who have nothing
to do  with assigning grades in the core courses. By increasing
student  effort and providing opportunities for students to be
successful,  supplemental instruction courses can help students
learn the material  and improve their grades in core courses by one
to two levels.

We must also expect students to study more outside of class. This
can  sometimes be accomplished by assigning students tasks they
actually  enjoy, such as computer simulations to solve realistic
problems, or  by giving them "what if" questions. We've found, for
example, that  most students enjoy Web searches. Another way to
encourage students  to study more is by assigning group projects and
letting the  participants pick the topic. A combination of studying
alone and in  groups seems to work best. Group work motivates
students to focus on  the task at hand. And based on our experience,
there is less need for  special tutoring and extra office hours when
groups tackle the  homework. To make this work, though, you may need
to be  creative-disguising homework as "extra credit" or having a
debate  between teams to spark interest and effort.

Involving students is a surefire way for them to learn. Cooperative 
group learning, computer simulations, guided design and
problem-based  learning are methods we've used successfully. Keep in
mind that  students need to stay involved with tests and assignments
even after  the work has been turned in. Students must understand
and use the  feedback to correct or improve their results. You can
encourage them  to revise their work by offering extra credit.

The majority of engineering students are intelligent enough to 
succeed in college. Motivation is what often separates one student 
from another. Although we would rather that students be motivated 
internally, external motivators have to sometimes be used. Personal 
attention, particularly from teachers, can be a strong external 
motivator. You can do this by using students' names, knowing 
something about them, and showing interest in their professional 
progress. Co-op or internship work sessions, service learning, 
undergraduate research, and tutoring others are good ways to keep 
students focused. By working together with other faculty members,
you  can ensure that lessons on how-to-learn are reinforced from one
semester to the next. Improving student learning does not require 
further research and study. All of the necessary pieces have been 
studied and piloted-the challenge is to put these pieces together 
into a coherent program.

Phillip Wankat is head of interdisciplinary engineering and the 
Clifton L. Lovell Distinguished Professor of chemical engineering at
 Purdue University. Frank Oreovicz is an education communications 
specialist at Purdue's chemical engineering school. They can be 
reached by e-mail at <mailto:purdue at asee.org>purdue at asee.org.

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