Mindful Learning and its need for 21st century engineers

After participating in the class discussion and reading the article on Mindful learning by Ellen Langer, it is clear that Mindful learning is actively engaging in the learning process by paying attention at the present and noticing new perspectives, and being sensitive to contexts. Here I will discuss how mindful learning helps engineers to participate in their professional work.

Engineers of the 21st century, along with learning to design engineering solutions, should also be able to understand how to translate their design to real-life products meeting the different criteria and constraints. These requirements include the business ( or economic including marketing, budget, cost-effectiveness), social impact (impact on people and environment), policies and ethical considerations of the product, which are the boundary conditions for the possible range of solutions. This shows that engineering solutions differ by various contexts and this variation in much more when the context is international.

This implies that engineers not only needs to learn facts but should engage to apply knowledge in real-life contexts. Whereas, in contrast, many traditional engineering classrooms, do not engage students in their learning process and thus the students passively learn facts and understand steps that they follow to solve problems. Then students can repeat similar steps to solve similar book problems, which often lack the real-life context. When these engineers are given a real-world open ended problem in their professional, they often find it challenging as the typical steps they learned might not answer the question in this context. They might have to think mindfully and creatively to understand how to solve the problem by integrating several knowledge that they have learned.

This indicates that modern engineering classrooms, should engaged students so that they mindfully learn the basics and then apply this learning to solve real-life problems with various level of difficulty. This can be done by engaging students to answer questions that need critical thinking, to solve real-world problems or to analyze real-life case studies. These help students to practice facing professional challenges early on. The habit of mindful learning, where they use their brain to process information in various contexts, and find creative solutions will ultimately help them in to succeed in their career.

What is your comment on this perspective?

3 thoughts on “Mindful Learning and its need for 21st century engineers”

  1. Really insightful thoughts on how mindful learning applies to engineering. I agree that much of what engineers end up doing, within industry, is not the same way learning occurs within the undergraduate classroom. For my class this past summer, I spent a great deal of time revamping the project to have more of a consulting feel. I tried to frame their case study in such a way that there were manageable challenges for them to think through and overcome yet leave them open-ended so they could be creative and explore many different solutions. It ended up working out really well and I think projects can be one of the best places to help our students apply some of the fundamentals we are trying to get across.

  2. I believe that what you state here is so true for so many different fields . Sometimes students are trained to passively go through the daily actions with out really digesting what they are learning or even critically thinking in terms of application. I believe this fosters gaining information that is temporary and not relevant. I might even add that- is that really learning? I don’t think so.

  3. Debarati,

    I totally agree with you. I believe in engineering classrooms we should promote active learning even when teaching basic courses like calculus or circuits for example.

    I remember back in my days as a recruiter for a big company that my boss always told me: “we want to hire the people that can think outside the box, the people that can create alternative solutions, collaborate with others, make decisions, we want the engineers that play sports, play an instrument, can cook or paint”

    I think the wrongly called “soft skills” are the most important skills we need to promote in engineering schools, and active learning is a great way to do it. We will have discussions later on PBL that I think you will find very helpful.

    Thanks for sharing,

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