D.B. Robinson Distinguished Speaker Series 2012-2013
Learning Environment and Language in Engineering Education
When we teach engineering we create a learning environment that requires students to access and make meaning of complex concepts, and apply this understanding to solve problems. The ways in which we present concepts and the problems we choose when we assess student learning are selected by the instructor and reflect a particular culture related to our discipline and personal background. For a student from a very different cultural background, or someone who is the first in their family to go to university, the learning environment we create can have accessibility impediments. In our research we are applying methods from industrial engineering, engineering education, linguistics, and computer science to analyze the way in which we use language in teaching engineering. The goal is to use technology and the principles of universal design to support the design of rigorous, but more broadly accessible engineering learning environments.
Dr. Susan McCahan: B.S. (Mechanical Engineering), Cornell University and M.S., Ph.D. (Mechanical Engineering), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, currently holds the position of Vice Dean, Undergraduate in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto. Dr. McCahan is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. She is active in engineering education research. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in recognition of contributions to engineering education and is the recipient of several major awards related to teaching and teaching leadership including the 3M National Teaching Fellowship and the Engineers Canada Medal of Distinction in Education. Dr. McCahan led the team of instructors that received the 2007 Alan Blizzard Award for implementation of a highly innovative first year learning experience that integrates design and communication.