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Motivating our Students for Student Engagement, Progression and Retention

Please cite as follows: Chan, CKY (2015). "Motivating our Students for Student Engagement, Progression and Retention", Engineering Education Enhancement and Research Asia (E3R Asia).

A Sharing on Motivating Students

The following section is a sharing by an Engineering professor from James Cook University (Tuladhar, 2011) on motivating engineering students. The teaching approaches and other methods suggested are adapted from his sharing in motivating and engaging students to learn.

The author discusses his teaching philosophy by reflecting on his interest to create a student-centred, active teaching and learning environment that encourages a two way channel between students and teachers that facilitate interaction and learning. He also tries to effectively integrate his research and industrial experience into his teaching. Apart from making efforts in teaching, he also facilitates students to conduct collaborative projects with industries and regularly invite professionals from local industries to conduct sharing and lectures. Thus his emphasis in placing students first and exposing students to the real-world industries are effective ways to motivate student's learning and to develop their transferable skills (i.e. communicative and teamwork skills).

A contextual teaching and learning approach

A contextual teaching and learning approach is effective in teaching engineering students as students can relate their learning with the problems that they will encounter when they enter into the professional field. Before introducing any new concept to students, his practice is to relate the topic to everyday problems that students are familiar with because associating real-world examples with the concept can help students understand its relevance and inspire students to learn. For instance in order to teach students issues related to hot-weather concreting, he showed students actual pictures of constructing concrete aquarium tanks which used the technique of injecting liquid nitrogen into the concrete mixing trucks to reduce the temperature of concrete mix and avoid cracking.

A multi-sensory teaching and learning approach

He has used the following teaching approach in teaching engineering design courses in order to sustain the students' interest because often these courses are thought of to be dry and monotonous. A multi-sensory teaching and learning approach adopts the use of visual illustrations and demonstrations in teaching. In teaching design courses, he strategically used pictures, videos, animations, and props in order to explain the underlying concepts. For instance he used videos to show practical examples to illustrate sustainability in concrete engineering. The examples he selected were about the collapse of civilization in Easter Island due to unsustainable development practices and collapse of Tacoma Narrow Bridge in the United States due to wind loading. Again, he continues to apply real-world examples into teaching concepts.

Initiate students to participate in solving engineering problems

The creation of an active learning environment is essential in order to facilitate students to develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills. For the tutorial sessions in his design courses, he formulates sets of original and realistic problems which challenge and encourage students. To begin with, he outlines strategy to solve these problems and initiate and encourage students to discuss among themselves. After the discussion students will be selected at random to present their solution. This form of interaction encourages participation and certainly gives students a motive to learn because students will have to be prepared to solve the problem.

Administer informal quizzes

Revision of the course content is conducted periodically. After the completion of each section, short oral quizzes are administered as a means to foster an enjoyable learning environment. For his class on concrete engineering, he divided his class into two groups and the group who wins will get a reward. Although the quizzes are not for grades, students are enthused to participate in these activities because it helps them review and reflect on the subject matter as well as reinforce their memory.