A Manifesto for Teaching Engineers

Given the choice I much prefer a manifesto to a mission statement though I suppose they amount to much the same thing. Maybe it’s simply a preference for the radical over the corporatist. The Communist Mission Statement does not quite have the same ring to it.

I was prompted to write my own manifesto after coming across one for the teaching and learning of radical history put together by Richard Kennett (@kenradical). What struck me immedidately was how easy it would be to apply this to all kinds of subject area. Wherever you see the word “history” just drop in your own subject. It is a guide to teaching and learning not just History.

This was the starting point but I quickly discovered how well the format of a manifesto lends itself to reflecting upon one’s own practices and ideas. And here I think it does differ from a mission statement. Each may be a statement of idealised intent but a manifesto pushes you towards clarity whereas a mission statement is apt to lead you towards obfuscatory PR.

So, picking up on some of my own interests, shamelessly pinching ideas from other people and with a HT to @kenradical here is my

Manifesto for Teaching Engineering

  1. Be enquiry led. Problems and questions are the bread and butter of engineering
  2. We are all engineers. The aim of teaching is to make students better engineers
  3. Embrace making as creativity.
  4. Enrich the teaching/learning by working with academics, industry and the community. Make this the triple helix in the DNA of a course.
  5. Work with curious, unusual and rich problems. The triple helix will help you do this
  6. Context should be woven into every enquiry. Always ask, “Where are the people?” Whose problem? Whose solution? Who benefits?
  7. Acknowledge that problems have more than one solution many of which do not involve engineering at all.
  8. Be accessible and enjoyable for all.
  9. Leave students wanting to know more about engineering

Nine points? That doesn’t seem right. It should be more like the Ten Commandments (definitely more manifesto than mission statement). So, here is a tenth point:

10. Be prepared to break the rules (including any suggested in this manifesto)

Note that this is a manifesto for teaching engineering. A manifesto for engineers would be different, perhaps taking inspiration from the First Things First Manifesto for graphic designers. What would be interesting, however, would be to include a manifesto for engineers into the teaching of engineers. What kind of manifesto would student engineers put together? Now that would be very interesting to see.

Hmm, maybe manifesto writing should be part of every curriculum.


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