Making strides in modernizing engineering education
In 2009 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration awarded a grant to Valana Wells at Arizona State University to lead work on what NASA officials consider critical to the agency’s future: developing “a revolutionary approach” to teaching aeronautical engineering to today’s students.
Wells has since been experimenting with methods that put less emphasis on using textbooks to teach students theoretical concepts and more focus on using computer simulation and visualization.
Wells is an associate professor in one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering – the School for Engineering of Matter, Transportation and Energy.
Working with lecturer Praveen Shankar, and with assistance from the school’s director, professor Kyle Squires, Wells introduced students to new computer software with sophisticated graphics capabilities suitable for designing solutions to engineering problems.
The teaching tools prompted students to develop their own collaborative study environments. Results show they learned more and learned faster, and final exam scores improved.
Wells says students in her classes also show a significant increase in their self-confidence and enthusiasm for their choice of a career in aerospace engineering.
The experiments in new learning methods are getting the attention of education and technology journals.