[EAS] New Mind for a Flat World

Peter J. Kindlmann pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Tue Jun 20 14:19:18 EDT 2006

Dear Colleagues -

Some of you will be familiar with Richard Felder's writings on 
engineering education and methodology. He is a chemical engineer at 
North Carolina State, and has been very prominent in evolving ABET 
criteria and preparedness. (Yale Engineering will have its next ABET 
visit in the fall of 2008.)

So it is interesting to see Prof. Felder address the inadequacies of 
traditional engineering education in the new "flat world" (in Thomas 
Friedman's phrase), calling for more than analytical problem solving 
skills, for exposure to the psychology of product design, the 
economics of global technology, global business strategy, awareness 
of cultural factors, and strong interpersonal and language skills.

Ironically, these are exactly the extra strengths that Yale 
engineering students can get from their larger Yale context, and do 
get! But many others, who originally intended to major in 
engineering, extrapolate the current shifts and sort of "leap across" 
engineering altogether, deciding to major in Economics, International 
Studies and the like.

So although we do not face the challenge of traditional engineering 
schools like North Carolina State, we do need to recognize the need 
for making the case "from the other side of the fence." Our challenge 
is to make the case for the continuing need of engineering design and 
analytical skills as the critical "connective tissue" amidst the 
global economic and cultural settings of technology.

Changes in courses and in engineering curricula will be needed to 
affirm that point of view convincingly. We need to be seen, in ways 
undergraduates can recognize, to speak about engineering specifics 
from a global perspective. Maybe we should even audit some of the 
courses in Economics, International Studies and Political Science 
that represent the new "flat world." Among those courses, more 
descriptive and less analytical than ours, many have readily absorbed 
the implications of technology. As engineers and scientists we have 
the great challenge of not diluting the necessary analytical and 
logical structure within our courses, yet we must somehow "connect" 
with the broader themes. Otherwise, as perceived by undergraduates, 
we will continue to implode.

Please read on.


>X-Original-To: tomorrows-professor at mailman.stanford.edu
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>Date: Tue, 20 Jun 2006 08:47:07 -0700
>To: tomorrows-professor at lists.Stanford.EDU
>From: Rick Reis <reis at stanford.edu>
>Subject: TP Msg. #734 A Whole New Mind for a Flat World
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>"So far we've gotten away with it, although sharply declining
>engineering enrollments in recent years should be a red flag. We
>can't count on getting away with it much longer, however. The
>relentless movement of industry to computer-based design and
>operation and offshoring of skilled functions and entire
>manufacturing operations is not about to go away. On the contrary, as
>computer chips get faster and developing countries acquire greater
>expertise and better infrastructure, the movement will inevitably
>accelerate. "
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>The posting below looks at some of the challenges facing engineering
>education in the global economy..  It is by science educator, Richard
>M. Felder of North Carolina State University.  It first appeared in
>Chem. Engr. Education, 40(2), 96-97 (2006) and is reprinted here with
>permission.  Felder's website with terrific information for science
>educators is: http://www.ncsu.edu/felder-public/
>Rick Reis
>reis at stanford.edu
>UP NEXT: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (Review)
>			    Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
>	--------------------------------------- 1,195 words
>			A Whole New Mind for a Flat World
>Interviewer: "Good morning, Mr. Allen. I'm Angela Macher-project
>engineering and human services at Consolidated Industries "
>Senior: "Good morning, Ms. Macher-nice to meet you."
>I: "So, I understand you're getting ready to graduate in May and
>you're looking for a position with Consolidated...and I also see
>you've got a 3.75 GPA coming into this semester-very impressive. What
>kind of position did you have in mind?"
>S: "Well, I liked most of my engineering courses but especially the
>ones with lots of math and computer applications-I've gotten pretty
>good at Excel and Matlab and I also know some Visual Basic. I was
>thinking about control systems or design."
>I: "I see. To be honest, we have very few openings in those
>areas-we've moved most of our manufacturing and design work to China
>and Romania and most of our programming to India. Got any foreign
>S: "Um, a couple of years of Spanish in high school but I couldn't
>take any more in college-no room in the curriculum."
>I: "How would you feel about taking an intensive language course for
>a few months and moving to one of our overseas facilities? If you do
>well you could be on a fast track to management."
>S: "Uh...I was really hoping I could stay in the States. Aren't any
>positions left over here?"
>I: "Sure, but not like ten years ago, and you need different skills
>to get them. Let me ask you a couple of questions to see if we can
>find a fit. First, what do you think your strengths are outside of
>math and computers?"
>S: "Well, I've always been good in physics."
>I: "How about social sciences and humanities?"
>S: "I did all right in those courses-mostly A's-but I can't honestly
>say I enjoy that stuff."
>I: "Right. And would you describe yourself as a people person?"
>S: "Um...I get along with most people, but I guess I'm kind of introverted."
>I: "I see...." (Stands up.) OK, Mr. Allen-thanks. I'll forward your
>application to our central headquarters, and if we find any slots
>that might work we'll be in touch. Have a nice day."
>* * *
>This hypothetical interview is not all that hypothetical. The
>American job market is changing, and to get and keep jobs future
>graduates will need skills beyond those that used to be sufficient.
>This message is brought home by two recent books-Thomas Friedman's
>The World is Flat  and Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind -that I believe
>should be required reading for every engineering professor and
>administrator. The books come from different perspectives-the first
>economic, the second cognitive-but make almost identical points about
>current global trends that have profound implications for education.
>An implication for engineering education is that we're teaching the
>wrong stuff. Since the 1960s, we have concentrated almost exclusively
>on equipping students with analytical (left-brain) problem-solving
>skills. Both Friedman and Pink argue convincingly that most jobs
>calling for those skills can now be done better and/or cheaper by
>either computers or skilled foreign workers-and if they can be, they
>will be.  They also predict that American workers with certain
>different (right-brain) skills will continue to find jobs in the new
>* creative researchers, developers, and entrepreneurs who can help
>their companies stay ahead of the technology development curve;
>* designers capable of creating products that are attractive as well
>as functional;
>* holistic, multidisciplinary thinkers who can recognize complex
>patterns and opportunities in the global economy and formulate
>strategies to capitalize on them;
>* people with strong interpersonal skills that equip them to
>establish and maintain good relationships with current and potential
>customers and commercial partners;
>* people with the language skills and cultural awareness needed to
>build bridges between companies and workers in developing nations
>(where many manufacturing facilities and jobs are migrating) and
>developed nations (where many customers and consumers will continue
>to be located);
>* self-directed learners, who can keep acquiring the new knowledge
>and skills they need to stay abreast of rapidly changing
>technological and economic conditions.
>Those are the attributes our students will need to be employable in
>the coming American engineering job market. The question is, are we
>helping them to develop those attributes? With isolated exceptions,
>the answer is no. We still spend most of our time and effort teaching
>them to "Derive an equation relating A to B" and "Calculate Z from
>specified values of X and Y." We also offer them one or two lab
>courses that call on them to apply well-defined procedures to
>well-designed experiments, and we give them a capstone design course
>that may require a little creativity but mostly calls for the same
>calculations that occupy the rest of the curriculum. Nowhere in most
>engineering curricula do we provide systematic training in the
>abilities that most graduates will need to get jobs-the skills to
>think innovatively and holistically and entrepreneurially, design for
>aesthetics as well as function, communicate persuasively, bridge
>cultural gaps, and periodically re-engineer themselves to adjust to
>changing market conditions.
>Why don't we? It's because people as a rule don't want to leave their
>comfort zones, and engineering professors are as subject to that rule
>as anyone else. We are all comfortable deriving and solving equations
>for well-structured single-discipline systems, but most of us are not
>so sure about our ability to handle ill-defined open-ended
>multidisciplinary problems or to teach creative thinking or
>entrepreneurship. So, despite a crescendo of headlines and
>best-sellers about the growing exodus of traditional skilled jobs to
>developing countries (including high-level research and development
>jobs, which are increasingly moving to India and China ), many
>engineering faculty members vigorously resist suggestions to make
>room in the curriculum for multidisciplinary courses and projects or
>anything that might be labeled "soft." Even though most of our alumni
>in industry-95%? 99%?-assure us (as they have done for decades) that
>they haven't seen a derivative or integral since they graduated, the
>traditionalists still insist that we can only produce competent
>engineers by devoting almost every course in the curriculum to
>deriving and solving equations, analytically and with Matlab. The
>same professors are no less resistant to efforts to move them away
>from the traditional "I talk, you listen" pedagogy toward the active,
>cooperative, problem-based approaches that have been repeatedly shown
>to equip students with the skills Friedman and Pink are talking
>about. (See bibliography below.)
>So far we've gotten away with it, although sharply declining
>engineering enrollments in recent years should be a red flag. We
>can't count on getting away with it much longer, however. The
>relentless movement of industry to computer-based design and
>operation and offshoring of skilled functions and entire
>manufacturing operations is not about to go away. On the contrary, as
>computer chips get faster and developing countries acquire greater
>expertise and better infrastructure, the movement will inevitably
>accelerate. The American engineering schools that respond by shifting
>toward more multidisciplinary problem- and project-based
>instruction-the way Olin, Rowan, Rose-Hulman, the Colorado School of
>Mines, and a number of others have already started to do-will
>survive. The schools that try to stick with business as usual may not.
>Effective Teaching Methods and the Research that Supports Them
>Bransford, J.D., A.L. Brown, and R.R. Cocking, eds., How People
>Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School, Washington, DC: National
>Academy Press, 2000. On-line at
>  	<http://www.nap.edu/html/howpeople1/>.
>Felder, R.M., D.R. Woods, J.E. Stice, and A. Rugarcia, "The Future of
>Engineering Education: 2. Teaching Methods that Work," Chem. Engr.
>Education, 34(1), 26-39 (2000). On-line at
>Woods, D.R., R.M. Felder, A. Rugarcia, and J.E. Stice, "The Future of
>Engineering Education: 3. Developing Critical Skills," Chem. Engr.
>Education, 34(2), 108-117 (2000). On-line at
>Active Learning
>Felder, R.M., "Random Thoughts" columns in Chemical Engineering Education:
>(a) "Learning by Doing,"
>(b) "How About a Quick One?" <
>(c) "It Goes Without Saying,"
>See also <http://www.ncsu.edu/felder-public/Cooperative_Learning.html>.
>Prince, M., "Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research," J.
>Engr. Education 93(3), 223-231 (2004).
>Cooperative Learning
>Felder, R.M., and R. Brent, Cooperative Learning in Technical
>Courses: Procedures, Pitfalls, and Payoffs,
><http://www.ncsu.edu/felder-public/Papers/Coopreport.html>. See also
>Two meta-analyses of research on cooperative learning vs. traditional
>instruction can be found at <http://www.co-operation.org/>
>(University of Minnesota) and
><http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/nise/cl1/CL/resource/R2.htm> (University of
>A Web site with links to CL-related papers and to what must be every
>cooperative learning site in existence is Ted Panitz's site,
>Problem-Based Learning
>Prince, M.J., and R.M. Felder, "Inductive Teaching and Learning
>Methods: Definitions, Comparisons, and Research Bases," J. Engr. Ed.,
>95(2), 123-138 (2006). On-line at
>	<http://www.ncsu.edu/felder-public/Papers/InductiveTeaching.pdf>
>Duch, B.J., S.E. Groh, and D.E. Allen, The Power of Problem-Based
>Learning, Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2001.
>University of Delaware Problem-Based Learning Clearinghouse,
>Ted Panitz's site (<http://home.capecod.net/~tpanitz/>) and
>Deliberations, a site managed by London Metropolitan University
>are good sources of both information about PBL and links to other
>PBL-related sites.
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