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Mindfulness Practices for Engineering Students
Tracey Carbonetto, Laura Cruz & Eileen Grodziak
The Pennsylvania State University
Engineering students benefit from resiliency while taking challenging classes. Engineering instructors employ various methods to cultivate resiliency through self-efficacy using practices that establish confidence and reduce apprehension. Depending on the complexity, engineering students who struggle with these methods lack focus and motivation interfering with the student’s ability to learn. (Paratore, J. R., & McCormack, R. L., 2007). Instructors teaching first-year engineering courses may reduce stress in students by utilizing contemplative pedagogy. Contemplative pedagogy involves teaching methods designed to cultivate deepened awareness, concentration, and insight. (Grace, 2011) These techniques promote focus and clarity while reducing the anxiety that interferes with learning. Concentration-enhancing and stress-relieving exercises in a first-year engineering classroom can benefit students experiencing stress due to challenging classroom environments. (Jennings, P., Snowberg, K., Coccia, M., & Greenberg, M., 2011) Typical contemplative techniques (i.e. meditation, breathing exercises, muscular relaxation) can be modified to encourage engineering students’ participation. This session will provide and demonstrate the techniques that are within the realm of engineering class.
• Listening to repetitive, soft tones of rotating machinery with eyes closed.
• Quietly observing the lines of a photograph displaying simple architecture.
• Tracing the flow chart of a continuous, smooth engineering process.
The rationale being that engineering students may not respond to soft tones of music playing prior to the start of class but may respond to mechanical sounds that indicate machine efficiency. The instructor may bring in content related to machine operations. An engineering student may not respond when asked to observe a classic painting to promote relaxation but may respond to a photograph of a building designed to be streamlined and efficient. The instructor may bring in content related to geometric efficiencies and design.
Research demonstrates that practicing mindfulness improves the efficacy of (software) engineering students in the development of conceptual models. Instructors who practice mindfulness may find improved efficacy and resilience in first year engineering students in the development of their own academic models. (Bellinger, David B; DeCaro, Marci S., 2011)
Reducing stress and improving focus lead to greater benefits such as higher student success rates (lower DWF rates) and retention rates in the major especially under-represented populations. Putting an engineering student’s mind at ease may become an integral step to a successful academic career. The authors contend that mindfulness practices will accomplish this.
Bellinger, David B; DeCaro, Marci S. (2015). Mindfulness, anxiety, and high-stakes mathematics performance in the laboratory and classroom. Consciousness and Cognition, v. 37 pp. 123–132.
Bernárdez, Beatriz; Durán, Amador. (2018) An experimental replication on the effect of the practice of mindfulness in conceptual modeling performance. The Journal of Systems & Software, v. 136 pp. 153–172.
Catalano, G. D. (2012). Listening to the quiet voices: Unlocking the heart of engineering grand challenges. International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace, 1(2), 152-159.
Grace, Fran. (2011). Learning as a path, not a goal: contemplative pedagogy- its principles and practices. Teaching Theology and Religion.
Gunnlaugson, O., Sarath, E. W., Scott, C., & Bai, H. (Eds.). (2014). Contemplative learning and inquiry across disciplines. SUNY Press.
Jennings, P., Snowberg, K., Coccia, M., & Greenberg, M. (2011). Improving classroom learning environments by cultivating awareness and resilience in education (CARE): results of two pilot studies. The Journal of Classroom Interaction, 46(1), 37-48.
Paratore, J. R., & McCormack, R. L. (Eds.). (2007). Classroom literacy assessment : Making sense of what students know and do.
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