Learning styles of most engineering students and teaching styles of most engineering professors are incompatible in several dimensions.

Many or most engineering students are visual, sensing, inductive, and active, and some of the most creative students are global; most engineering education is auditory, abstract (intuitive), deductive, passive, and sequential. These mismatches lead to poor student performance, professorial frustration, and a loss to society of many potentially excellent engineers. Although the diverse styles with which students learn are numerous, the inclusion of a relatively small number of techniques in an instructor's repertoire should be sufficient to meet the needs of most or all of the students in any class. The techniques and suggestions given on this page should serve this purpose.

Professors confronted with this list might feel that it is impossible to do all that in a course and still cover the syllabus. Their concern is not entirely unfounded: some of the recommended approaches-particularly those that involve the inductive organization of information and opportunities for student activity during class-may indeed add to the time it takes to present a given body of material. The idea, however, is not to use all the techniques in every class but rather to pick several that look feasible and try them; keep the ones that work; drop the others; and try a few more in the next course. In this way a teaching style that is both effective for students and comfortable for the professor will evolve naturally and relatively painlessly, with a potentially dramatic effect on the quality of learning that subsequently occurs.

A class in which students are always passive is a class in which neither the active experimenter nor the reflective observer can learn effectively. Unfortunately, most engineering classes fall into this category.


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