Prof. Midlam-Mohler on Teaching:
An outsider to curriculum innovation might view teaching as a static thing – thermodynamics today is the same as it was fifty years ago, right? In many cases, we are teaching the same knowledge we did in the past but we are – or should be – teaching it in drastically different ways. Among weaknesses noted by employers of graduates are “lack of practical experience in how devices are made or work, a lack of familiarity with industry codes and standards, and a lack of a systems perspective.” My work in experiential learning is at the front-lines of this recommendation. I help shepherd hundreds of students through experiential learning activities ever year. These projects are large, interdisciplinary, system-oriented, and are made possible by extensive peer-to-peer learning networks.
External feedback from employers routinely state that students are lacking professional skills. So how does one teach project management or system engineering well in a classroom setting? My conclusion was that you don’t – these topics are too intertwined with “messy, real-life” factors. From this simple premise, the concepts for a “the world is your lab” project management, system engineering, and powertrain laboratory course were born and now alive and well in the Department of Mechanical Engineering via class I teach. These students take concepts from a discussion-based weekly lecture into the field to practice.