Title

The Craft of Story-Telling in Engineering Education

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date

6-29-2017

Department

Engineering

Keywords

science, technology, mathematics, curriculum, Christian education

Abstract

For all the efforts over the last decade or more to attract, retain, and engage more students in STEM education, the challenge remains. Most programs have focused on creating gateway programs that attempt to sell the content of engineering as fun and entertaining. While there is little doubt that the task of engineering will be existentially pleasing, it is not a re-casting of the content alone that will attract and keep students in STEM disciplines. In both industry and education, the challenge of engineering is rarely one of content, but rather one of underlying motivation and purpose. History demonstrates that tenacious engineers and their engineering feats emerge most often from transcendent narratives. Reference to the primacy of story within the task of higher education extends beyond the walls of Christian education. Scholars and writers in our post-modern culture increasingly use the language of narratives and meta-narratives when discussing worldviews. While Christians disagree with the proponents of post-modernism on many foundational issues, there is general agreement that overarching narratives (i.e. stories) play a powerful role in shaping an individual’s life. The power of story lies in its inherent wholeness. A good story, in all of its complexity and nuance, resists dissection, analysis, and explanation. A story simply invites us to participate in the narrative, to see ourselves inside the story. I will reaffirm in this paper that the central task of our life-long Christian education is to work, live, and play inside the Biblical narrative of the kingdom of God. However, traditional STEM pedagogies rarely reflect the holistic character of engineering as a human activity and inadvertently sever engineering from its context in the bigger story. Thus, our pedagogical techniques and curricular structure often contradict what we intend to teach as Christian educators. Refining our story-telling in the engineering curriculum is a potential means of retaining more students in STEM. More importantly, is an essential element of teaching integrally Christian. I will propose three approaches to accomplishing this. The first method integrates historical narrative into the engineering curriculum, the second involves blending contemporary narrative into classroom discourse, and the third involves the use of Biblical narrative within the context of technical subjects in a way that resists a counterproductive sacred-mundane dichotomy.

Comments

Paper presented at the Christian Engineering Conference, Cedarville, Ohio, on June 29, 2017.

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