Research over many years shows that the range of students engaging in STEM in general and engineering in particular is increased by emphasising a ‘people-centred’ rather than a ‘kit-centred’ approach. In simple terms this means that more students will engage with topics if the resources lead with stories about the driver, the nurse and the pilot rather than with details about the car, the mechanics of a tilting bed and the fuel consumption of the plane engine. Of course, the content details are required, but by placing them in a human context students are more likely to persevere with the work and internalise a deeper understanding of the material.
As well as embedding learning materials in people-rich, real-world contexts a commitment to providing viable options within the resources for students increases motivation. Offering problems where students create and work with multiple possible viable solutions to review, choose and optimise amongst these is more motivating than simply displaying a single approved solution.
The approach will draw on the RAEng report Learning to be an engineer (RAEng, 2017) and particularly the ‘Engineering Habits of Mind’. While a teaching and learning resource is not the full answer to developing these habits any approach and supporting materials should support these ways of working rather than being simply a collection of technical content. We are developing an approach that recognises that engineering is more than a simple process any more than science can be reduced to a simple ‘scientific method’.