Monday, 4 August 2008
As you may know, ExCEEd stands for Excellence in Civil Engineering Education. The program has its roots in recommendations developed and issued during the 1995 Education Congress conducted by ASCE. One declared a need for more education in order to practice at the professional level. This led directly to ASCE’s Policy 465 a few years later. Another recommendation was that civil engineering professors needed more training in how to become better teachers. Fortunately ASCE had on staff some former professors from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and they were familiar with a program that had been developed to help Army officers be effective teachers. ASCE adapted their program and turned it into a weeklong workshop.
The successful workshop is now in its tenth year, with nearly 500 professors (out of 3,500 nationwide) having had ExCEEd training. Each year, two workshops are conducted. One is held in the West or Midwest. Last year, I attended the one in Flagstaff, Ariz. The other is held at West Point, which I had the pleasure of attending the last weekend of July. In order to be a participant, a professor has to submit an application for approval. The success of the program has grown to the point where ASCE has more applicants than the 24 slots available in each workshop.
The workshop is a very rigorous boot camp on how to be an effective teacher. The professors work with mentors and actually prepare and give a lesson. The first time, they ready and deliver that lesson just as they would have done it prior to coming to ExCEEd. They receive real-time feedback from an audience composed of their peers and mentors. The lesson practices are then given two succeeding times, and the level of improvement and change is dramatic. Interspersed with the lesson presentations, there are lectures on principles of effective teaching, communication skills, learning styles, teaching with technology and interpersonal rapport with students. This year's class at West Point included professors from as far away as Hawaii and Afghanistan. The program can claim credit for having trained the majority of engineering professors at a number of universities.
If you are involved or know the department head at your alma mater, I would encourage you to have their professors apply for next year's workshops. The effectiveness of our civil and environmental engineering professors is paramount. The future of the civil engineering profession depends upon it.