Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘trained engineer

A course material of 1000 pages?  Why so much material for a single course in the first place?

Posted on November 2, 2008

Assimilating a new discipline or new methods in a single course is too strong a term. 

You indeed can scarcely describe the process of comprehending a topic and assimilating it, even within a specialized discipline, without overshooting the mark.

Now that the title might have captured your attention, let me describe my teaching methods that may permit students to cover an overview of such a vast discipline as Human Factors in one semester course.

I encourage my students to learn and read as “trained engineers ” should, smartly.

They are to first locate the graphs, tables and figures in a chapter (the dependent, independent and controlled variables) , try to understand the topic by concentrating their attention on these tools of learning, and then read the preceding and following sections if they fail to comprehend the graphs, tables and figure on their own merit.

You should all know that if a picture is worth a thousand words then a graph, table or a figure might be worth ten thousands words.

I assign a graph, table or a figure to students to hand copy it, write a short presentation, and then copy it on a transparency sheet to present to class.

After the presentation of a unique graph the student will field a few questions from class and then I take over and explain and expand on the content of the transparency.  

This method of training students to learn through these learning tools and giving them an opportunity to appreciate them, as engineers should, I am able to cover most of the course material throughout the semester.

Another method is by handing out two take home exams in addition to the regular exams.  Take home exams are handed out three weeks in advance of the due dates and cover questions from all chapters that need to be read thoroughly and supplemented from other sources for substantiation. 

Students are encouraged to take very seriously these take home assignments not only because they weight heavily in points but also because a few of the exam questions will be selected from the take home assignment. 

Assignments and lab projects are other methods for revisiting the course materials and other sources.

The quizzes and regular exams are open books, open notes and whatever printouts from the internet students are willing to bring to class. 

I even encouraged students to use an efficient cheat sheets technique that might convey the message effectively based on the fact that most of the chapters are interconnected. 

The main subjects such as designing interfaces, displays and controls, occupational safety and health, environmental and organizational factors in the workplace, designing workstations, capabilities and limitations of human users, sensing and perception capacities, and physical and cognitive methods have links to many other chapters in addition to the main one. 

Thus, if a student selects a subject as the central item he would be able to link different sections of other chapters to it by writing down the page numbers of the source section.  

These cheat sheets could be excellent learning methods to answer open book exams without the need to fumble through hundreds of pages for each question.

A different technique to assimilating course materials is through questions. 

The catch is that asking questions on assignments, lab projects or take home exams have to be submitted in writing. 

The written question has to follow a certain process:

First, stating in complete sentences the subject matter;

Second explaining how the question was understood and

the last step is expressing the problems with links to the chapters they had to read in order to comprehend the subject.

I am still waiting for a single written question and it might be for the best because it eliminates a host of redundant questions that are asked out of laziness, failing to carefully read the whole question sheet or shirking from diligently doing their best to browse through the course materials.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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