Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hard to Believe / Easy to Relate to

Top 20 of all blogs on engineering? (on July 19) Hard to believe.

Doubt if it will stay there. I stumbled on this site ranking top engineering blogs while looking for something else. Although my appearance there makes me question its methodology and scope, it does have some interesting places listed there and I can see why I fit in. After all, most of the people I teach physics to are future engineers and (as a result of being related to engineers) lots of engineering topics and blogs come my way.

Boys talk authoritatively? Easy to relate to.

“The boys take over the hands-on projects and the girls take notes,” Eaton said. “Boys will answer a question more authoritatively. Girls pose answers as a question. They are not as confident in their answers.” (Quote from a newspaper article featured in a blog about a Beloit College program.)

This is a problem I have talked about before in my blog, and should think about more. For now ...

... I'll remind you that this important teaching-related point appeared at the very bottom of my article about teaching lab classes. The biggest problem I see in the lab is when a young man gives a highly authoritative answer that is 100% wrong and the young woman, who had much better physical insight into what should be done, goes along. Usually this doesn't show up until I see it in a lab report, which is a bit late for effective feedback.

I don't really have a simple solution, but the best one so far seems to be to watch how groups form (all female groups often work well, but individual personalities also matter) and monitor the lab group dynamics during the lab. I have also talked to some of the women after or outside of the lab about this issue.

One thing that does work is telling a favorite story in class about applying knowledge to a new situation, where the heroine is a former student (now an engineer). I knew (and told her so) that one young woman was definitely going to make a great engineer when she told me about an experience the previous weekend. She had been helping her boyfriend work on his truck, but they had run into a problem: the timing mark was gone. She realized that she could measure the circumference of the wheel and use 10/360 to figure out the distance from "top dead center" to where the mark needed to be. !! Is there a better elementary example of a high level of critical thinking within the infamous Bloom's Taxonomy?

(Oh crap, now I have seen Bloom's Wheel. Until now I had only heard about it.)

And I keep adding to my list of such stories as I learn of the successes of my former students. One characteristic of a CC is that we do get the non-traditional student, some from rural areas where experiences like working on equipment can translate into real success in engineering once they develop the confidence that they can do it.

1 comment:

Shane Pike | Engineer said...

It is indeed very hard to believe that there aren't more engineering blogs out there. We have scoured the web and have only found the 42 that you see in the list right now. Rich has noted his inability to find more blogs as well.

One major factor that reduces the number of blogs we're listing is the fact that, because we want to include traffic as one of the components in the ranking, we can't accept blogs that live in a subdirectory of a larger site., in particular, has several blogs that would qualify if it weren't for that restriction. That may be something we ultimately have to eliminate, or maybe simply not give those blogs any credit for traffic.

We're always open to comments and critiques, and I appreciate you blogging about this.