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?Interested in Strategy learning?


My group of HNC Engineers have had 4 lecturers this year - I am the 4th. They are therefore not surprisingly fed up. They also do not appreciate the relevance that costing and strategic planning has to their engineering environment and when I try to teach them this riviting subject they just sit there with their arms folded and I get no response whatsoever. They are bored and it does not help that the lecture is last thing Fri pm. As a result I am unnerved and am stumbling over my words.

Any ideas as to methods to get them interested -I've run out of ideas. It does not help that I also have been thrown into this with not much guidence e.g I walked in the 1st day to teach them one part of the syllabus and they said they had already ocvered it! I only have them for a further 10 weeks.

Jennifer Adams

12 Responses

  1. Demonstrating the link between Strategic and operational issues.
    I think many of us can identify with your Engineering students. There is always some part of an academic course where most of us think , “What’s that got to do with what I want to be/do?” It’s only when we enter the world of work, do we realise the importance of the different elements of our organisation’s work and how they contribute to the final product or service.
    Students get bored (especially on Friday afternnons!) if they cannot see the relevance of a subject to the main focus of their studies.
    One way to wake up your students may be to invite a recently graduated, working Engineer to talk to them about his/her work, artfully including examples showing how costing and strategic planning are an integral part of it.
    Good luck!

  2. Getting Engineer students to think strategically!
    Have you considered getting the group to think through either the setting up/or growing of an engineering business? You could then apply some strategic management theory and tools that would allow them to reflect/research evidence to inform them on the future direction of the business. Whilst I have no direct experience of working with a group of HNC Students of Engineering I do have twenty years first hand experience of motivating students.

  3. Disinterested engineers
    Think that you’ve hit the nail on the head -they are disinterested.
    1.How about calling thier bluff and asking them if you can work out together what would be useful in your topic to them and if not let them get bored doing nothing.
    2.The other thing would be the threat of exams and accreditation -a more dodgy carrot
    3. Finally -just read a book called leadership and the new science by Margarte Whealtley
    it’s all about qauntium phsics and chaos theory and related planning and organsaitional devlopment to new science which may grab them (and is written in easy to understand non technical way but deals with difficult scientific stuff)

    Good Luck

  4. Ideas

    You raise some interesting points about disengagement in learning – and I would go along with many of the earlier comments. Fundamentally, until your students see this is a relevant issue to their needs they will remain disinterested.

    I agree with the previous comment – you need to turn this round so that the responsibility lies with them, not you. Get them to state what is relevant around this issue to their needs. What about creating a problem-solving session / case study / simulation, in which, in the context of a larger problem, the issues of costing and strategic planning need to be addressed e.g. for the purpose of submitting a tender, or putting forward a business case to a third party. If you have the time, get them to create and run a related simulation.

    Tim Pickles, Founder, TrainingZone

  5. (Engineering) strategy and costing is fundamental to asset-inten
    Getting them engaged by having THEM define the importance of the topic is fine until you come across those who “don’t know what they don’t know” – in these situations we really need to make an expert input.

    On a practical level, you might be aware of the importance of costing and strategy (including engineering strategy/asset strategy) in the asset-intensive regulated utilities such as water (my area of expertise), rail etc. The major basis of their price determinations are underpinned by a strategic approach to asset management depending fundamentally on detailed costs for 5 -15 year strategic plans. I would expect any asset-intensive business to have very similar features, so the importance of strategic (engineering) planning and accurate costings is VERY critical to many businesses. I guess that some of your students may want to work in these environments, so perhaps you could get someone along to illustrate, from real life, how important this is.

  6. Change the energy and focus
    Why not try something completely new, change the tempo and energy and get them to do the talking. The most important thing is that they learn, not you teach, so even if they get less input than you wanted them to have, they will learn something. Using games, activities, scenarios, role plays, if the subject is dry, get them to act parts of the process. Contact me for more information. Alison Sullivan, Life coach and trainer e mail [email protected]

  7. Students Deserve Interesting Training
    I appreciate your challenge in being thrown in the deep end. However, as you appreciate, your students have the right to interesting training.
    You and the students would benefit from a visit from and ideally to an engineering organisation where they can see first-hand the relevance of the topic.
    I’m hoping one of the previous comments made about threatening them with exams was a joke. While the students must take ownership for learning, the trainer must take ownership for imparting the information in an interesting and effective manner – otherwise, the students would be further ahead just to read a book on the matter.
    As already suggested – use Action learning techniques – case studies, role plays, setting up dummy companies, etc. – get them involved and moving!

  8. bored students
    Dear Jennifer,

    To me, one key sentence in your report is:
    “…They also do not appreciate the relevance that costing and strategic planning has to their engineering environment…”

    For an engineer (and I am one!) the subject of cost and planning almost by nature is boring. What may help is to do something radically different, e.g. play a business game and make sure that the elements of what you want to get across are covered. Also, start with an engineering issue that can be recognised by the students (a subject coming from another teacher?) and then approach it from the planning and costing side and show that these may totally change the chances of a project; neagively or positively.
    Etc, etc.
    Hope this helps.

  9. Know your students!

    I don’t know how experienced you are at teaching and I don’t want to offend you here. However, you need to be aware of who you are teaching. Different groups of individuals will react in different ways to being placed in a classroom.
    I run technical courses on computer systems for engineers in a large company. I “know” these engineers, they are 99% male, they are between 20 and 30, they read the Sun (50%), the Daily Mail (40%) and the Mirror (10%), they are willing to spend hours discussing football, cars and computers, and they have particular attitudes (to women, to different races, to foreigners etc.) which I need to be aware of.
    I have had to develop particular strategies to ensure that these engineers learn. Some examples:
    I know that a very structured teaching environment will remind them of school and they will turn into children in an instant. Too little structure and they think they are with their mates in the pub. So a careful balance of the formal and informal.
    Too little activity (practical exercises etc.) and they will lose concentration, so not too long just listening to me. I also ask them questions, on things they should know before coming on the course and on things I have just told them. Interaction and participation will keep their attention and hold the group together.
    Pictures are invaluable. My engineers can follow a complex explanation of how a system works but they will not remember much of it. A nice flow diagram will be recalled much more easily.
    I have to keep ahead of them in my technical knowledge. But also prepared to say “I don’t know” when I am asked a question that is outside my knowledge. Engineers can spot waffle at a thousand yards! But they do have respect for people who apparently know more than they do.
    And I ALWAYS have a little something up my sleeve for those difficult moments, when I can see the students are tired and losing concentration. Maybe an extra exercise, maybe a story of how some hapless engineer managed to crash a client’s system or if things get really desperate – a joke. (Jokes are not my forte really.)

    One of the greatest challenges in teaching is enabling students to learn in spite of themselves. You have to create just the right environment for a particular group which will facilitate their learning. Engineers (even if not qualified yet) are a fairly homogenous group and will respond to the right stimuli.

    If you knew all this already then humble apologies.

    Steve Holloway

    P.S No offence intended to any engineers reading this.

  10. Harry S Truman had the answer !
    Harry S Truman, US President just at the end of WW2, had the answer when he said, “Anyone who is bored these days, just isn’t concentrating !”
    Anyone (engineer or not) who does not concentrate on the implications of “costing and strategic planning in the engineering environment” may not contribute to keeping their job. There are some good suggestions so far,but I suggest that you throw the topic at them by getting them to ‘lead’ a SWOT analysis on the topic. It may well be that they generate the enthusiasm when posing some suggestions !

    Best Wishes
    Ray Hobby

  11. Motivating disinterested students
    Hi Jennifer

    I get bored Friday afternoons too – but I get paid!

    If you could find a topic of interest to them eg, cricket, setting up a hobby shop, a disco club or some such thing and then ask them to apply strategic planning principles to it to determine where they want their business to go, they’d probably be more interested.

    Divide the class into groups and run a competition between them; different businesses with strategic plans and let them assess which plan is the best at the end. It opens up the opportunity to highlight the various excellent and not so excellent points they have brought up. Cap it off with your summary of SP and how important it is in changing times etc etc.

  12. Some basics
    Replace words with as many pictures and diagrams as possible. Have you thought about the room dynamics? If they are sitting in rows they are not in the position to co-operate with each other. Split them, if possible, into different groups and facing each other around their tables (squares usually works) and set them problems around the things they can relate to. The work of other deaprtments only interferes with their ability to be engineers, often come across that one, and I sell the solution as success as the best revenge.

    Using power point or OHT’s? Don’t. Too often used as a crutch for getting over too much in too short a time. I have to have a very definite use before I will employ either. Where I do use powerpoint a lot is in the production of handouts, three to a page, which I use to get information in the slides and a space for the students to relate to their won work situations. Also show it can be applied to their interests as well as their pay packets.


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