What’s all this about ‘My Engineering Words’?

‘My Engineering Words’ is an activity for the students that involves listing all the words ‘engineering’ makes them think of at the start of the event. Then, at the end of the event students can revisit the list and add/remove any words they see fit. So, for example, they might have written ‘boring’ on the first list, but want to cross that out now and add the word ‘approachable’. OK, that’s the kind of thing we are hoping for, obviously.

They can then discuss in pairs and small groups what words they have added or taken away. They can compare their lists and their changes and reflect upon and discuss how their ideas or feelings about engineering have been affected by taking part.

It may sound simple but it’s actually a fantastic way for students to reflect upon their own learning during the project. As I’m sure you know better than we do, reflecting on what you’ve learnt is a crucial step in really developing skills and moving to another level. We think students will be surprised by how they realise their ideas have changed.

To fill in their engineering words, students go to their profile and click on ‘edit my profile’. They can see their own engineering words, but not other people’s, and no-one else can see theirs. We feel this encourages students to be completely open with their learning experience.

Teachers also have a ‘My Engineering Words’ section which can be used to record a whole class list.

The ‘My Engineering Words’ activity is based on techniques developed for museums and other ‘non-curricular’ learning settings. In a classroom setting you may have a defined intended learning outcome for a lesson – to do with an understanding of ohm’s law or the properties of enzymes or whatever – which it is relatively straightforward to test. In settings like museums or art galleries it’s less easy to try to look at what people have learned – they all start off knowing different things, they do different things when they are in the building, and also some of the ways we hope people might change (e.g. by feeling that history is more relevant to them), are more difficult to measure than seeing if they get V=IR right.

I’m an Engineer is a little bit like museums or art galleries in this way – it’s intended to affect the way students feel about engineering, and develop skills, rather than teaching them any specific facts. Which is why we use this particular activity to try to gauge student’s learning and get them reflecting on the experience.