Read an Excerpt
Lifelong Learning for Engineers and Scientists in the Information Age
By Ashok Naimpally Hema Ramachandran Caroline Smith
ElsevierCopyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc.
All right reserved.
What are necessary critical-thinking skills for engineers and scientists to have in order to enter the workforce? What skills do they need in order to stay current in a changing world throughout the course of a long career span? Educators, students, and employers alike may also ask how best to develop these skills. Certainly, in an era of prevalent electronic information, information overload, and tight academic and corporate budgets, those with the best-developed skills stand a much better chance of achieving lifelong career success. Educators seek to prepare students as thoroughly as possible for their careers, and employers seek to hire versatile and competent employees. In the United States, despite pressures of marketplace economics, academics and employers have come together into partnerships to provide students with the foundation for robust careers in engineering and science.
This book begins with the foundational elements necessary for understanding the context of lifelong learning skills as a career strength, then moves through the methods instructors and librarians use to teach and to develop students' lifelong-learning skills. Finally, we will examine the internship as a vital component to the development of a scientist or engineer with a career path open to any future direction.
Setting the education baseline, we will discuss the definition of information literacy as it is commonly understood within the university setting. Of course, accrediting boards oversee universities and must ensure universities precisely meet particular academic standards involving information literacy and lifelong-learning skills. Fortunately this is a reciprocal arrangement, as information literacy standards are embraced by all involved, including those in the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and ABET, Inc., the accrediting body involved in certifying the education of the newly minted engineer. All parties involved agree on the added value of lifelong-learning skills in the face of the information overload of the digital information age. Employers in engineering firms and scientific research centers are all equally desirous of seeing these skills developed during the educational phase of a science or engineering career. Creativity, awareness of context, and successful communication patterns are all critical elements of the successful engineer and cannot be developed without information literacy and lifelong-learning skills.
With the aid of this book, the reader will be taken through the elements necessary for creating the successful student learner. We will look at designing traditional information literacy assignments for college seniors involved in capstone courses, as well as assignments for freshmen design classes. Literature surveys and curriculum mapping techniques will be shown as tools useful in discovering and targeting the best courses in which to incorporate information literacy. In order to ensure in-class efforts are successful, assessment tools in the context of an engineering curriculum will be discussed, including the four most powerful and popular methods used for honing and strengthening information literacy instruction.
The third element needed to create the truly information-literate scientist or engineer is the internship. This is the critical "in context" component for creating the lifelong learner. It brings to students a startling clarity of vision of their places in the information stream and with employers as they begin their careers. By looking at the history and philosophy of internships and of cooperative education, the reader will come to understand when and how to bridge the gap between academics and practice. In this context, we will present the learning contract. This is the formal assignment that binds the student, employer, and academic advisor to the standards and principles of the marketplace, the educational environment, and the formal accrediting bodies. We will provide examples of how to develop learning contracts and objectives, as well as how to assess competency methods and evaluate internship programs as a whole.
This work is intended as a guide for educators and employers—and even for students looking for a better understanding of their educational and professional future direction. Career-seeking skills are just as important in the educational process as are information-seeking skills. Fortunately for engineers and scientists, their professional support structure is fully embedded in this model.
Chapter TwoDefinitions of Lifelong Learning and How They Relate to the Engineering Profession
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines lifelong learning thus:
lifelong learning n. a form of or approach to education which promotes the continuation of learning throughout adult life, esp. by making educational material and instruction available through libraries, colleges, or information technology. OED Online (Oxford University Press)
The OED definition provides a good general starting point that lifelong learning is primarily conducted through educational institutions. In fact, the idea or concept of "lifelong learning" can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. At a presentation to Leningrad University, Bosco (2007) traces the classical roots of the term:
Although lifelong learning has become a particularly popular concept in the last several years, it is as old as human history. Lifelong learning was embodied in the works of the ancient Greeks. Plato and Aristotle described a process of learning for philosophers which extended over a lifetime. The Greek idea of a "paideia" comprised the development of a set of dispositions and capabilities which enabled and motivated the individual to continuous scholarship. Within the context of the Greek philosophers, lifelong learning was reserved for the elite social class and it was not associated with occupation or "making a living" but with the engagement in philosophic speculative inquiry.
Bosco makes an important observation that whether we consciously recognize it or not, all of us are engaged constantly in the acquisition of information and skills as a natural process.
The definition of the term in Wikipedia provides us with more detail and distinguishes between formal and informal ways of learning and other characteristics of lifelong learning:
Lifelong learning is the continuous building of skills and knowledge throughout the life of an individual. It occurs through experiences encountered in the course of a lifetime. These experiences could be formal (training, counseling, tutoring, mentorship, apprenticeship, higher education, etc.) or informal (experiences, situations, etc.). Lifelong learning, also known as LLL, is the "lifelong, voluntary, and self-motivated" pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. As such, it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship and personal development, but also competitiveness and employability.
"Lifelong Learning," Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Lifelong_learning, accessed September 17, 2011
So, the concept has been in existence for some time. In this chapter, we provide a broad overview of how various international organizations have defined lifelong learning. Research on this topic has accelerated during the past 15–20 years as educators and policy makers worldwide have approached the task with vigor to convert the concepts into programs. We offer a brief description of the major work in this area to illustrate the commonalities and differences in definitions to provide our book a frame of reference.
UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) was the first organization to popularize the term in the 1960s and 1970s as a way of connecting formal and informal education. UNESCO has produced two groundbreaking reports on lifelong learning: the Faure Report (International Commission on the Development of Education & Faure, 1972) and the Delors Report (International Commission on Education for the Twenty-First Century, Delors, & UNESCO, 1996, 1998), both articulating the fundamental principles of lifelong learning. One of the overarching aims of the "UNESCO Medium-Term Strategy 2008–2013," http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001499/149999e.pdf, accessed September 17, 2011, for the Education Sector is "attaining quality education for all and lifelong learning." Initially, the UNESCO approach to the subject was a humanistic one, focusing on the development of the individual with an emphasis on "learning to learn." However, in the 1990s, UNESCO adapted its approach to lifelong learning to the needs of the "knowledge economy" and human capital development. Despite this, the organization avoided the purely economic arguments for lifelong learning, which is evident in its 1996 report on lifelong learning titled "Learning: The Treasure Within." (International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century et al., 1998). This report defines lifelong learning as adaptation to changes in technology and as the continuous "process of forming whole human beings—their knowledge and aptitudes, as well as the critical faculty and the ability to act." UNESCO's commitment to lifelong learning is evident from its establishment in 2006 of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) in Hamburg, Germany, in 2006 (http://www.uil.unesco.org/, retrieved September 17, 2011). This organization is the successor to the UNESCO Institute for Education (UIE), which was established 60 years ago. UIL's goal is to further literacy as a foundation for lifelong learning.
The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) is an international economic organization of 34 countries founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade and is a forum for countries committed to Definitions of Lifelong Learning and How They Relate to the Engineering Profession 5 democracy and the market economy. It provides a platform for nations seeking answers to common problems by identifying good practices and coordinating the domestic and international policies of its members. In 1996, the OECD's education ministers adopted a comprehensive view of lifelong learning that covers all purposeful learning activity with the goal of "lifelong learning for all" that improves knowledge and competencies for all individuals who wish to participate in learning activities. The concept has four main features - the relevant points for our present project are summarized below:
A systemic view. Viewing the demand for—and the supply of—learning opportunities as part of a connected system covering the whole life cycle and comprising all forms of formal and informal learning.
Centrality of the learner shifting the focus from the supply side to the demand side of meeting learner needs.
Attention to learn is recognized as an essential foundation for learning that requires developing the capacity for "learning to learn" through self-paced and self-directed learning.
Multiple objectives of education policy. The life cycle view recognizes the multiple goals of education, such as personal development; knowledge development; and economic, social, and cultural objectives.
"The OECD Policy Brief on Lifelong Learning" (2004), http://www.oecd.org/ dataoecd/17/11/29478789.pdf, accessed September 17, 2011, covers this topic in depth, including the following lengthy statement on the importance of lifelong learning. This statement has great relevance to the importance of and need for lifelong learning in the engineering profession:
A number of important socio-economic forces are pushing for the lifelong learning approach. The increased pace of globalisation and technological change, the changing nature of work and the labour market, and the ageing of populations are among the forces emphasizing the need for continuing upgrading of work and life skills throughout life. The demand is for a rising threshold of skills as well as for more frequent changes in the nature of the skills required. Firms' drive for greater flexibility has injected precariousness in jobs. There is a tendency towards shorter job tenures in the face of more volatile product markets and shorter product cycles. Career jobs are diminishing and individuals are now experiencing more frequent changes in jobs over the working life.
Excerpted from Lifelong Learning for Engineers and Scientists in the Information Age by Ashok Naimpally Hema Ramachandran Caroline Smith Copyright © 2012 by Elsevier Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Elsevier. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.