Monday, January 22, 2007

Jumping into the syllabus

Hi. I'm Mel, an Olin College student. This blog is a project notebook where I'll keep track of my AHS (arts, humanities, and social sciences) capstone project on engineering education throughout the semester. I'm a polymath who happens to be an undergrad in electrical and computer engineering and plans on being a university professor somewhat later on in life. Although I haven't had formal education coursework yet, I've been TAing for almost 5 years now, so my experience in the field is strongly skewed towards the practical rather than the theoretical; this is an imbalance I'll be dealing with throughout the semester.

In a nutshell, my project is examining the curriculum of Engineering of Compartment Systems, an intro-to-engineering course all frosh at Olin are required to take. Although the course has been offered 5 times in as many years, there is not yet a coherent collection of resources for it, meaning it will be difficult to share it with other students and universities. My current final deliverable is the beginnings of a "textbook-like" resource for the course (although it may not be a bound lesson-book in the traditional sense). The formal proposal will be fleshed out here as the course progresses.

We're supposed to come with a question about the syllabus for the first class on Wednesday, so here's mine. I've got three.

Learn to operate within disciplinary conventions.

Do these disciplines need to all be AHS? My capstone project cuts across the AHS/technical boundary, and I'm wary of pulling too much engineering into the mix, but I still want to be cognizant that I'm making things for use by engineers. I need to see how educational anthropologists have dealt with this dichotomy.

Is it okay to re-use prior work for assignments?

Since I took the AHS capstone prep course last year and have been preparing for this capstone project for almost a year and a half, the first two assignments for the course - a proposal and an annotated bibliography - are basically finished (although both could use revision) and earlier versions were already submitted for the prep course last spring. I hope it's still all right to use those.

What's the deal with human subjects if you don't think you have any... but aren't sure?

Finally, since I'm working on a project regarding a class that's being taught by professors, TA'd by upperclassmen, and taken by students, I'll have to look into the human subjects research ethics for this. Hopefully this won't be an issue at all, as I view the others involved as collaborators, not subjects, but we'll see what the professors say about this.

Ah, the sweet smell of a new semester, fraught with dreams and unburdened (as of yet) by a crushing workload. I'm looking forward to this.

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