January 15, 2008

Are engineering profs really that bad?

While I was in St Cloud State University, I felt the SCSU engineering faculties were the worst in this planet.It was not only me; entire engineering students had the same view. I thought I was enrolled in a bad school.Well it was cheap. Despite of that I had teaching assistantship. I just shut my mouth and struggled myself.
In the lab, I always heard students whining. Not one, not even two, each student had complained for every teacher. In the lab at late night they used to make joke about their PhD and PE. Most of the undergraduate students had their own transportation. All the graduate students were international students, so they didn't have their own transportation. It used to be late midnight when they finished their homework. In the middle of night, they just got stuck in the lab. If the night cleaner is kind enough, they could use their jacket and sleep in the floor otherwise they have to make their way outside in the frozen night. With these tough things, if international students cannot maintain 3 GPA, they will be in probation and again if they cannot cover in the next semester,they have to leave the country.
Students have complaining behavior. We used to complain,get frustrated,make fun of professor, laugh...that's how we spend time in school.In one evening everyone was busy with their homeworks and projects. One student just broke the silence,"guys our subjects are tough, so professors are getting hard time. It is not only difficult for us to learn but it is equally difficult for our teachers to teach. So let's not hate our teachers".But his expression made us to think something about our teachers.
I was lucky to have a very helpful thesis advisor. Unfortunately after graduation, I haven't been to the school to see him. It has been almost 2 years. Today I was going through Design News and I found engineering school has poor rating. So it was not only S t Cloud State University but most of the engineering schools have same scenario.

Article of Charles J. Murray from Design News

For many of our readers, this probably won’t come as a surprise: Recently-released surveys from The Princeton Review show that engineering students aren’t always pleased with their professors.Before we tell you the results of the survey, though, let’s stop and review a few important points: Engineering curriculums are hard; student grades in engineering tend to be on the low side of the bell-shaped curve in almost every college; students with low grades are unhappy and tend to blame their professors. We know all this.Now, let’s look at the results, which were published in The Princeton Review’s Best 366 Colleges. In a category titled “Professors Get Low Marks,” seven of the worst ten schools had very high percentages of engineering students. The United States Merchant Marine Academy, Stevens Institute of Technology, Cal Tech, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology were the worst four. Others in the bottom ten included Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Georgia Tech and Illinois Institute of Technology. The results were part of a multiple-choice survey administered to more than 120,000 college students. In the “Professors Get Low Marks” category, students were asked, “Are your instructors good teachers?”Obviously, this looks bad, even when you blame some of the dissatisfaction on the complexity of engineering material. But the list of the best 20 schools made engineering look even worse. Students responding to the same question put only one school with a high percentage of engineers – Harvey Mudd College of California – in the best 20.Academic experts say that the difficulty of engineering has a lot to do with the results, but they admit it’s not the whole problem. “Even if you have fantastic teachers – which many of these colleges do – engineering will always get lower marks,” says Ray Almgren, vice president of product marketing and academic relations for National Instruments. “But difficulty doesn’t explain all of it. It doesn’t explain why so many engineering schools did so poorly.”Almgren notes that most of the schools mentioned on The Princeton Review list are known for their research, not their teaching.And here, I’ll add my own opinion: It’s worth noting that Harvey Mudd College – the one engineering school that did well in the survey -- is not known as a research institution. Another college that has done well in the past, Olin College of Engineering, is also not a research institution.Admittedly, that’s a small statistical sample, but it reveals an important point: No matter how hard engineering undergraduate material may be, it needn’t be taught in a way that leaves behind a trail of disgruntled students. It needn’t be taught by professors who prefer to describe themselves as researchers, rather than teachers. It needn’t be relegated to hordes of teaching assistants who struggle to speak understandable English.And it can be taught in a way that might even be described as exciting.It would be easy to stick our heads in the sand and attribute the results of this survey to the whining of students who don’t want to work hard. But if we’re truly concerned with the future of engineering education in America, then we might want to take a harder look at these results. There just might be broader meaning here.



2 Comments:

R Budhathoki said...

nepalean dai hamro school pani testai chha,ramayan padyo padyo sita ko ho ko. article is good. yes it is true engineering schools always get low rating.

Nepal Ko Chhora said...

I assume teaching is more an art than the science. What I have observed is most "techinical" faculties hardly get to dive into the details of teaching-learning philosophies. What I believe is all learning begins with the simple phrase, "I don't know". A good teacher should not only possess the mastery in the subject but also get familiar with different learning styles of the students. Some students are good visual learners while few others prefer audio mode. Some genius can just grab the textbook and master the subject matter on their own. So, the subject matter should be prepared in such a way that it can cover all learning styles as far as possible and same policy should be implemented during evaluation process as well. In this way, students with different learning style can adapt easily how difficult the subject matter be.

Another issue is related to high emphasis put on research by research universities. During renure evaluation, the first thing the evaluation committee look is number of publications and millions of dollars of funding you were able to bring in those 5-6 years. Teaching skill is considered secondary part in the evaluation. So, most of the early career faculties spend their time writing project proposals and journal papers. They hardly get chance to work on their teaching.
While in teaching colleges and universities, the focus is more on teaching than reseach. I have observed that they look into previous teaching experience as one of the most important factor while recruiting new faculties. No wonder teaching colleges/universities get higher rating than research-focused institutions.

Post a Comment

>>> कमेन्टको लागि धन्यवाद !