Restructuring an Engineering Core Course to Prepare Students for Design Experiences

Tim Healy
Department of Electrical Engineering, Santa Clara University
500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053, USA

This paper describes the restructuring of a core electrical engineering course in electromagnetics to better prepare students to do engineering design. Traditionally the course was taught in a linear mode, one step following the other. There was also little attention to practical applications, or to the relation of the material to other courses in the core. The paper begins with a review of some of the current literature on teaching and learning, particularly as it relates to the restructuring. This includes a discussion of student intellectual development, the reality of uncertainty in the world and student reaction to it, some assumptions that instructors need to take into the classroom, and finally some thoughts about the possible relation of child development to student development. The restructured course is then described. The linear approach to teaching is abandoned. Students are asked to face the reality of uncertainty, as well as its implications for engineering design. A daily handout sheet is designed to facilitate student integration of ideas across classes and courses. A design project is introduced. The response of students to the course is briefly discussed. The paper closes with a set of questions designed to guide continuing restructuring of the course.


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