Last week, my teammate Jake and I spent two days on the campus of Louisiana Tech University. I spoke to staff, faculty, administrators, student leaders and K-12 educators from the community. Immediately, I recognized the folks at LA Tech cared deeply about connecting with their Generation iY students.
Case in point. I met with the key faculty in the Engineering Department for a roundtable discussion on my second day on campus. The discussion, headed by Associate Dean Galen Turner, PhD, was invigorating due to the innovative ways they now lead the classroom. Knowing that incoming students are EPIC in nature…
E – Experiential
P – Participatory
I – Image rich
C – Connected
…they have adjusted the way they teach first year students. Instead of demanding the students get used to sitting passively, listening to lectures on engineering, and weeding out those with no aptitude, they introduce young students to an experience they will not soon forget. They build a robot. Everyone one of them. The department figures that the best way to engage students is to give them ownership of a project that they must oversee and complete. Afterward, the lectures all seem relevant.
Further, they approach the subjects holistically, including political science, math, physical science and mechanical engineering professors who interact with the students explaining the big picture of that field. Before their freshman year is over, those students have built at least three electrical or mechanical projects. Eventually, they’re invited into another experience where students must choose a problem in the world and invent a solution that will solve that problem. The projects ranged from mailboxes that notified residents when mail had arrived to harnessing solar power. It was fascinating to hear about and watch.
What I loved most was the commitment of those faculty members to do all they could to help their students succeed in the field. They met all the requirements of the EPIC model and their department is flourishing more with each year.
There’s no doubt college students must eventually learn in ways that are less than engaging. By the time these students are finished, LA Tech has accomplish that goal. But the journey begins in an EPIC fashion—and I saw the fruit of their work.
How about you? Are you willing to trade in your old pedagogy for an EPIC one?