Methodologies for Engineering Learning and Teaching (MELT): An Overview of Engineering Education in Europe and a Novel Concept for Young Students

Methodologies for Engineering Learning and Teaching (MELT): An Overview of Engineering Education in Europe and a Novel Concept for Young Students

Bárbara Filipa Casqueira Coelho Gabriel (University of Aveiro, Portugal), Robertt A. F. Valente (University of Aveiro, Portugal), João Dias-de-Oliveira (University of Aveiro, Portugal), Victor F. S. Neto (University of Aveiro, Portugal) and António Andrade-Campos (University of Aveiro, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1978-2.ch016
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Abstract

The concept of Smart City comprises many levels of development, quality of life and wellbeing. One of the key aspects of this idea is the relevance of the overall education of citizens, on technical competences as well as responsible citizenship. Within the innovation-focused drive to future cities, scientific literacy is paramount, particularly considering engineering education. This is noteworthy for the education of today's students, preparing them for life in tomorrow's multifaceted technology-driven world, and directing them to personal and professional development within scientific careers. This Chapter describes the challenges and opportunities of education within today's society paradigms, with an eye on the Smart Cities of the future. A new, innovative and connected approach is presented, with concepts that encompass the main stakeholders in the scientific education system along with the main actors in society. A global and scalable education framework model is detailed, aiming to provide guidelines for an improved collaborative approach to STEM education in the future.
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Introduction

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers are essential for the 21st century innovation and competitiveness in Europe as a pillar of the Smart City concept. Even so, there is still a gap between this reality and the expectations and intentions of Upper Secondary School students in pursuing a STEM career (Sjoberg & Scheiner, 2010). As confirmed by different international reports, Europe is facing a serious decrease in young people’s motivation for STEM-related studies and careers. One of the factors that may contribute to this lack of attractiveness of students to these fields may be the way science is taught in schools (Osborne et al., 2003).

It is within this ecosystem, transversally present and properly identified in Europe, that the MELT approach was idealized. In a nutshell, the main objectives of MELT are:

  • 1.

    To provide the effective opportunity to listen and to give voice to all involved stakeholders in engineering education, by creating a forum for “face to face” debates, critical reflections and analysis, bringing together students and teachers of different education levels, as well as science and industry professionals, leading to an Education Parliament model (EduP);

  • 2.

    The development and validation of a novel Expectation Alignment index (EAi), objectively measuring the level of alignment of expectations between the involved stakeholders regarding STEM education and career pathways (in particular, mechanical engineering paths);

  • 3.

    The promotion of a STEM Education Framework (STEM-EF), increasing the awareness of high school students to the scope, options, challenges and advantages of considering a Higher Education future path and more specifically a STEM career, once again particularly focused on engineering courses.

These methodologies are set into the reality of engineering teaching and learning strategies at the European level, in a fully scalable and reproducible way, towards a Global Engineering Knowledge culture. The present Chapter is devoted to present the details and evolution of the implementation of MELT methodologies, starting from local, regional or national propositions, towards a scalable model prone to be applied at the European level and, therefore, to be a contribution to the development of the Smart City concept. It is also related to a detailed description of relevant examples of teaching/learning methodologies already in place in Europe, namely of their main features and objectives. Particular emphasis is given to their impact towards a more inclusive Higher Education system, truly linked to High School students, from one end, and to industry/science stakeholders, to the other.

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Background

The Smart City concept is related, among other things, to the broad idea of people living in a better world. The concept aims to improve the interconnection between citizens, with governments paying a special focus on creating and redefining new environments for the education of today’s students, preparing them for life in tomorrow’s multifaceted technology-driven world (Klett & Wang, 2014).

Various definitions that evolved from Digital City to Smart City (and more recently to Smart City of the Future) made it clear that technology and infrastructures are prominent aspects of the Smart City concept. However, the concept embraces not only various definitions but also diverse directions, representing a wide collection that conveys different and new opportunities for educational improvements, which is the focus of the present Chapter. In this context, there is the need for illustrating the use of technologies and methodology design experiences towards the Smart City ecosystem, considering a number of education and human development aspects, including new opportunities for learning and teaching, curricula reform, skills’ development, etc., up to the idea of competence and knowledge management in a highly interconnected networked environment (Klett & Wang, 2014).

One of the long-lasting phenomena in the scope of Smart Cities is the knowledge and innovation economy. Knowledge management has expanded in several socioeconomic areas, such as:

  • Business,

  • Education,

  • Government, and

  • Healthcare.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collaborative and Cooperative Learning: A class of teaching methods that promote active teamwork from students to autonomously explore questions and problems. This can happen in the classroom, but also over virtual networks and media, for instance. Cooperative learning can be seen as a type of collaborative learning, where students work in a structured group, usually small, but are still accountable and made responsible for their own work, as the group results as a whole.

Engineering Design: Process commonly followed in engineering to develop a solution to a given problem. It can involve many transversal aspects of science, technology and design, bringing this last field to its purest definition of form and function in conjunction to provide the best project solution. This is usually an iterative process of ideation and creation.

Citizen Empowerment: Connected to citizen engagement within the community, citizen empowerment defines opportunities and accessibility provided to citizens by their leaders and representatives, in whichever social field, to develop capabilities that are valuable to actively participate in the development and decision making of a community. Wider than just related to a political sense, it can be viewed in terms of knowledge and other aspects (such as digital inclusion) and affecting their everyday quality of life.

Skills and Competences: Skills can be seen as something intrinsic, the characteristic of what a person knows or learns, being also usually defined as abilities or traits. Competences on the other hand are the actual application of skills, what takes the skills to actually develop solutions and produce tangible results.

Active-Learning: Any student centred learning process in which students address learning through hands-on activities, such as discussion and brainstorming, problem solving, material creation, etc., aiming to promote analysis, critical thinking and evaluation in the classroom.

Education Parliament: Built over specific stages and with defined layers, the Education Parliament is a radical departure from the usual communication channels between stakeholders in scientific education and careers. It is a broad network of connections that brings together commissions of representatives from upper secondary school students and teachers, higher education students and teachers, industry and science market players. These stakeholders are expected to effectively work together, within MELT approach, to align expectations for successful education and career paths in scientific fields.

STEM: This acronym means Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, otherwise also known as SMET. It is a global definition, usually connected to academic education for scientific fields. Its use can reach further, up to policy and curricula definition for a competitive and continuous development. More recently, it is progressively being giving way to a broader concept, where creativity and less tangible aspects of Arts were also included, leading therefore to STEAM .

STEM Education Framework: The STEM-EF corresponds to a framework for a number of education policies, but more importantly, it presents a new model of interaction between stakeholders at all levels of education and training (pre- and post- university stages), based on the awareness of young students about STEM.

Expectation Alignment: The connection between the main actors of (and for) science education as well as representatives of labor market sectors (science and industry) are cumbered by the fact that views and expectations are not balanced or coherent. Student’s expectations, for instance, can show nonalignment to curricula and, in turn, to active professional requirements. This is what defines the Expectation Alignment (or the lack of), justifying the need of its objective measurements between involved stakeholders and regarding STEM education and career pathways.

Project-Based Learning: Student centred teaching methods that promote learning and the acquisition of knowledge and skills through practical and active development of an effective project by students. This usually regards an extended timeframe to allow for the investigation and experimentation required to seek and optimise solutions for complex and engaging problems or challenges.

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