Title

The Role of Andragogy in Mechanical Engineering Education

Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)

Civil and Mechanical Engineering

Abstract

As highlighted by ABET mechanical engineering program accreditation criteria, a goal of an undergraduate mechanical engineering program is to prepare undergraduate students to work professionally in thermal or mechanical systems. Correspondingly, a student’s undergraduate experience marks a transition from their formative years as teacher-dependent, full-time students toward an adulthood marked by self-directed learning and full-time employment. To date, undergraduate engineering education literature has oriented on students as young, dependent learners through the use of the term pedagogy to describe techniques and methods of teaching rather than andragogy, which refers to educating adult, self-directed learners. A search for the two topics in the Journal for Engineering Education returns 277 articles associated with the term pedagogy compared to 2 for andragogy, for a ratio of over 138:1. For the International Journal of Engineering Education the ratio is 119:1. A similar search of all ASEE conference articles since 1996 returns over 104:1. The initial conclusion of these findings is that the topic of andragogy is less prevalent than pedagogy in engineering education publications. This is problematic considering these two learner orientations bring with them a set of conflicting underlying assumptions regarding the learner themselves, with the pedagogical assumptions less consistent with ABET student outcomes.

The purpose of this paper is to provide undergraduate mechanical engineering educators with a better understanding of how andragogy may play an integral role in the education of undergraduate engineering students. The assumptions associated with andragogy may be better suited to preparing students for the rigors of professional mechanical engineering practice. Using a single case study methodology, this paper examines the guiding documents of one undergraduate mechanical engineering program including 1) ABET accreditation criteria, 2) institution-level guiding documents, and 3) department-level mission and vision statements. Results from this case study analysis contrast the applicability of pedagogical and andragogical assumptions in the education of undergraduate mechanical engineers and highlight how the historically pervasive pedagogical assumptions may hinder the development of students into independent, adult learners. The paper concludes by proposing the use of a continuum to view how pedagogy and andragogy apply across the entire undergraduate mechanical engineering experience as we encourage students to develop into adult, self-directed learners prepared for a life of professional engineering practice.

Publication Date

6-24-2017

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

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