The Enriched Learning Environment Model: A Community for Learning
The proposed work seeks to create a new way to educate prospective engineers. This idea is founded on the concepts of an enriched learning environment, which is a system of education that provides an interconnected focus on the learner, on the teaching process, on discipline knowledge and on the community. Specific aims are to
1. Create a change process that leads faculty towards the ideas embodied in the enriched learning environment model. This task will involve a set of ongoing workshops (2-4 per year) facilitated by specialists in faculty development. Workshops will be interdisciplinary with participation from disciplines such as engineering, education, mathematics, and English. 2. Create a mentor program, organized in tiers. A professor mentors a limited number of experienced mentors, each an undergraduate. Experienced mentors supervise beginning mentors, and the mentors guide students in engineering classes. 3. Design and build a creativity incubator, the Idaho Mind Works. Patterned after the highly successful Idaho Engineering Works (IEWorks), the Idaho Mind Works will be located in a physical space that promotes social, cultural and experiential learning. 4. Implement the enriched learning environment model in engineering science, lab and design classes. 5. Gather validated evidence that informs the relevant scientific and educational communities of the results of this research.
This project will create a prototype of a new engineering education system-one that is based on new assumptions and foundations. Knowledge will be documented and disseminated, including transfer to an innovative company that specializes in faculty development.
Intellectual Merit. While ideas of the enriched learning environment have been achieved in some classrooms, this proposal seeks change across a community of educators. The proposed objectives are each an extension of significant ongoing work, and the project team contains engineering educators, assessment specialists and personnel from the College of Education. Through commitment from faculty and students across disciplines, the proposed work will create an environment based on inquiry, investigation, and discovery, where faculty and students learn and research together. In addition, the proposal team seeks to reduce the cost of education and to develop a method for transferring the enriched learning environment model to other universities. To improve quality while decreasing costs is the way of the engineer--this proposal is founded on the belief that this is possible.