Innovative Learning


Engineering represents a major category of adult education that is critical to most aspects of modern society. Although there are many different types of engineering (e.g., aerospace, chemical, civil, electrical/electronic, industrial/manufacturing, mechanical, mining, nuclear), the fundamental nature of engineering is similar across all domains (e.g., Florman, 1976; Kemper, 1982).

Certain cognitive processes such as problem-solving and reasoning are particularly important in engineering tasks. Since most engineering methods involve some form of mathematics, this is a critical learning domain. In addition, engineering often involves innovation or invention; hence creativity is very important.

Most modern engineering activities are conducted in a team setting with a great deal of interaction among team members. This makes social learning and development (e.g., Bandura , Vygotsky ) highly relevant to engineering education. Furthermore, many engineers must perform some sort of management function, making this domain of skills relevant as well.

Like most other professionals, engineers must engage in lifelong learning in order to stay current in their field. This means that self-directed and experiential learning, as outlined in the theories of Cross , Knowles , and Rogers , is significant for engineering education.

Denning (1992) states that future engineers must, in addition to being competent in engineering basics, be skilled listerners for concerns of customers or clients, be rigorous in managing commitments and achieving customer or client satisfaction, and be prepared for ongoing learning. He discusses the changes needed in university programs to accomodate these needs. Jones (1986) outlines the role that educational technology needs to play in continuing education for engineers, suggesting that theories of learning that focus on media (e.g., Mager , Salomon ) are relevant to engineering education.


Denning, P. (1992). Educating a new engineer. Communications of the ACM, 35(12), p 83-97.

Florman, S.C. (1976). The Existential Pleasures of Engineering. New York: St. Martins Press.

Jones, R. (1986). Educational Technology for Quality Engineering Education. Washington, DC: American Society for Engineering Education.

Kemper, J.D. (1982). Engineers and Their Profession (3rd Ed). New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.