Department of Electrical Engineering
College of Engineering & Engineering Technology
ELE 250: Computer Engineering I
ELE 250 (Computer Engineering I) is a required course for the electrical engineering, biomedical engineering and mechatronics engineering majors and is a designated gateway course. Particularly for electrical engineering majors, this course may be considered as the first engineering course that the students will be taking in the department and the course is structured so as to give the students an introduction to the engineering design process in a fun and interactive way. Although the design problems introduced are computer engineering centric, the principles learnt may be applied to the design of any engineering system moving forward. As such, students, who are properly trained in this class will greatly benefit as they advance through their coursework in subsequent years in the college.
The innovations that are proposed here, while initially targeting this course, are not course specific, and can be used to improve other courses, as well. Briefly, this proposal seeks to address the problem at the grassroot level of addressing the ’mind-set’ of the students towards learning, improving student motivation and self-confidence and a sense of belonging. Unless effective intervention happens at that level, any number of innovations in instruction would fail to produce the desired effect. It is akin to the saying – “We may lead the horse in the most effective way to the water, but ultimately, it is the horse that needs to drink the water”.
The proposed innovation seeks to investigate new intervention techniques addressing the “mind-set” of the students, in changing their mindset to a growth mindset. A recent study from Stanford University points towards how even simple ‘social-physiological’ interventions focusing on bringing awareness to the students about how learning happens, about the nature of intelligence, about effective study techniques, about how effort equals to growth etc. have been effective in bringing up the grades of non-performing students in coursework (Yeager et al., 2019). Further, such intervention techniques also help bring forth a sense of belonging to these students as they are motivated to perform well and succeed in their coursework.
Over many years of teaching, the PI had the revelation that most students are simply not aware of how learning happens. Even students who seemed to “get” the material during class, who actively engaged in the classroom, still failed to get the expected grades on the test. The PI made it a point to designate one full lecture session per semester to engage the class on this topic about “learning”. During this lecture session, students are first shown some video snippets from the famous course “Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects” offered by Dr. Barbara Oakley (Stanford University), followed by sharing with the students the PI’s own experience navigating his challenging years. The floor is then opened for further discussion and students are encouraged to share their own learning strategies that worked for them to the class. The classroom becomes animated during this session. While some students greatly benefited through this exercise, most students, over time, fall back to their old ways.
To ensure that positive changes happen and stick with the students, it is imperative that the discussions and activities are to be continued over a longer period and in a repeated manner. This proposal would establish Friday afternoon ‘happy hours’ in the college where the students from the class could gather for refreshments and engage in furthering the discussions. During these informal hours, the PI intends to work with the students on an individual basis, in creating customizable learning plans, further the discussion on related topics through presentations and effectively engage the students not only in bringing awareness but also implementing the best practices into their daily life. The design of effective intervention techniques would require a more close collaboration with CITL. The collaboration is necessary not only in the design but also the effective implementation and assessment of the efficacy of these intervention program, implemented over multiple semesters/years. An exit interview from the participating students would feedback into the program to provide insight and offer opportunities for continuous improvement.