Philosophy, engineering education and the curriculum

Heywood, J. (2008) Philosophy, engineering education and the curriculum. [Conference Proceedings]


Recently some leading senior engineering societies have encouraged discussions about the philosophy of engineering that even extend to metaphysics. Authors acting independently have also published substantial papers on the topic. However, little has been written about philosophy and engineering education. The purpose of this discussion is to extend the debate that is emerging in this respect. From the examples given it is argued that just as intending teachers in training are exposed to the philosophy of education so teachers in higher education, in this case engineering, should also be exposed to its study. In short it is argued that engineering educators should have a defensible philosophy of education. The primary focus of the paper is the contribution that philosophy can make to decisions about the curriculum and instruction. The paper begins with a short review of recent developments in the philosophy of engineering. A distinction is made between operational or working philosophy, philosophy and philosophical disposition. Arguments for exposing teachers to the philosophy of education are briefly presented. In considering the curriculum and the aims of engineering it is important to be quite clear about the terms that are used. This point is illustrated with reference to the design of instruction and assessment. In publicly financed higher education it is of importance to maintain an on-going critique of the aims that drive that finance as well as the one-sided criticisms of others. Lists of aims are often contradictory and require in the first instance to be screened by philosophy. The recent study of engineering by Williams points to the need for profound debate about the aims of engineering education. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2008.

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