Cooperative Education

Moderator: Great, thank you. Does any one else want to speak for their institution on this topic in this section? Sir, do you want to come up in front real quick? Name, title, and affiliation? Quick. I know where this guy is from.

[laughter]

Audience Member: Good morning panel, I am Harold Simmons, director of cooperative education at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. There is a methodology for teaching engineering to undergraduate students in the United States that has been around for a hundred years and it is called cooperative education where the student spends a term in the classroom and then goes out into industry and spends a term getting practical experience working along side engineers, and then comes back into the classroom in alternating semesters through the latter part of their college undergraduate career.

There are about five hundred schools with engineering programs that practice this type of program in the United States. Do you think this methodology could be applied to teaching the teachers in having them go back and forth from the classroom to a work experience in industry then having them come back into the classroom, to provide or perhaps generate a better teacher. Also, this whole area of cooperative education as a teaching methodology is ripe for research.

Moderator: Thanks, Hal. Comments from the panel? Elaine?

Elaine Seymour
: I think this is another dimension of the issue, that we have to offer and encourage professional development, ongoing professional development. I mentioned earlier the power of workshops over the last 15-20 years in which people help each other, people who have been on the road longer than the newcomers, so it’s insiders helping younger or less experienced insiders. It’s not experts teaching novices, and I think this is a very good model. I’d like to see the NSF fund far more workshops.

Sheri Sheppard: Actually, the concept of faculty going out in industry is an interesting one. Certainly Boeing has been fostering that idea of doing a summer fellowship. NASA has been very supportive of that idea. It actually could have another spin on it: faculty actually learning what it means to be an engineer, because that’s another whole problem we’ve had to tackle. [applause] Learning to be teachers but also learning to be engineers.

Moderator: Well, that’s our next session, I think. That’s a good topic.

David Radcliffe: In my role I spend three days a weeks in industry and the other two on campus, and I have graduate students who spend their time in industry as well doing their research on the practice of engineering, as well as doing the actual work. So, we’re actually modeling that idea of co-op at the next level.

Moderator: Jim?

Jim Pellegrino: I think that the idea of field-based work and apprenticeships is a terrific one. I’d suggest that sometimes it’s useful to look at models elsewhere. In Europe, particularly in Germany, they have a very elaborate system for connecting in what they call vocational education. It’s not vocational education the way we think about it in the United States, it has to do essentially with connecting the university to the skills of the workplace. The other caution, I would say though, is that apprenticeship or going out into the field is not a panacea. We’ve seen the problems in teacher education. You have to be very careful to monitor the quality of the placements, the quality of the experiences because you can end up with very variable propositions in terms of what people actually learn if you just put them out on the field. The mentoring that goes on is highly variable.

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