First-Hand:Fifty years of R D & D in Engineering and Technological Education
Submitted by John Heywood
An upside down education in East Kent during the second-world war led me to leave school at 15 in 1945. Among other things the school had been bombed. In spite of the fact that I was pretty terrible at mathematics (algebra and geometry), (had missed the first-year of the grammar school curriculum in maths, and never caught up), I decided to train as a radio officer for the British Merchant Marine. This exempted me from call-up to the armed services which I thought was pretty clever. In fact it turned out to be much tougher than those of my school friends who were called up. I did six years, they did two!
The training is of interest for several reasons. First, it was training. Six hours a day for the best part of 15 months. Everything was taught like the Morse code, rote –as drill. It should be said that there was a properly equipped radio station. The equipment was made by the Marconi Co. and included transmitters and receivers, a direction finder that used the Bellini-Tosi system, and a spark transmitter but no longer used at sea. It did not have an auto-alarm, that is, a receiver tuned to the distress frequency (500 kc/s) that would respond to an SOS and ring an alarm when no human watch was being kept. We had to find out about those when we went to sea. At that time radar was only just beginning to be installed on ships and we were not trained to operate radar. Several years later up-grading courses for radar were introduced. On my last ship we had a Decca Navigator which was a ground positioning system that was used as a navigational aid. Second, if we had been taught all that was in the textbooks we would have been very well educated. Sadly that was not to be. We were wanted for a specific job that was to manage a ship’s wireless station. This meant sending and receiving messages and ensuring that the apparatus functioned, repairing it if it broke down. Since there had to be an emergency supply of electricity this was achieved by a large array of lead acid accumulators of considerable ampere-hour capacity. They had to be kept charged and topped up. They were supposed to be topped up with distilled water. Since distilled water was not supplied whatever came out of the tap was used. We had to log the specific capacity of each cell at regular intervals with the aid of a hydrometer. Third, the transmitters, and to some extent the receivers were constructed so that every bolt could be turned by a British penny which was a rather large coin. Fairly large gauge tinned copper wire was used and covered by a flex (called syster flex – I don’t think I ever knew how it was spelt). It came in varying sizes according to gauge of the wire which had to be pushed through it. The wires were looped around the nuts and then bolted. Everything was “square” so to speak. Wires were straightened and turned when necessary at right angles. There were not many solder joints and on the ships in which I served, a cold soldering iron was provided together with a methylated spirit burner to heat the iron up. I never had cause to solder, thankfully. If you were lucky you were also supplied with a pair of pliers and a screwdriver. Fourth, was the design of one of the textbooks that were required reading. I have been interested in the design of textbooks ever since.
The textbooks in question were the two volumes of the Admiralty Handbook of Wireless Telegraphy (1938- London, HMSO). Volume I would be considered a full blown course in electricity and magnetism. Volume II was about the principles of transmitting and receiving and the design of devices to achieve these goals. It also dealt with direction finding. There was some acknowledgement of the fact that some parts were extremely difficult (ie degree level study), in volume 1 in particular. This recognition was achieved by starring some of the sections and indicating that they were not needed by students such as I. If I hoped that I would receive some maths instruction to cope with the things we needed to know then I was to be disappointed. A few basic equations had to be remembered for the second class certificate examination. But the idea of grading the paragraphs for difficulty seemed eminently sensible. Now scholars such as Richard Felder design their books to match the learning styles of the reader.
Of course the Admiralty did not name the authors but it is inconceivable that Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India did not make a contribution to these books for he was attached for some time to the signals branch or whatever it was called, of the navy. After the war he was President of the British Institution of Radio Engineers and fought for it to get a Royal Charter. In 1979 he was assassinated by the IRA while on holiday in Ireland. The other services also published similar texts and I subsequently made great use of the War Office’s (Army) Handbook of Line Communication (London, HMSO).
The other text book that was recommended was the seventh edition (1947) of a Handbook of Technical Instruction for Wireless Telegraphists by H. M. Dowsett and L. F. Q Walker (London, Iliffe). The earliest editions were published circa 1918 and included information about the radio equipment on the Titantic. The edition that I possessed included a number of photographs of the equipment used.
The second class certificate that allowed me to run a ship’s radio station was granted by the British Post Office, which was also responsible for the land stations in the UK that communicated with ships. The certificate was a Certificate of Competence which stated exactly what a person who had taken the examination, which was both theoretical and practical, could do. In 1950 I obtained a first class certificate.
I suppose the training had some transfer effect because my first ship had apparatus made by IMR (International Marine Radio) a subsidiary company of the American company Standard Telephones and Cables (STC). That ship was the SS Min Chih which sailed under the Chinese flag. It was formerly owned by the Aberdeen Steam Navigation Co and called the “Dean Swift. We sailed it to Hong Kong where it was handed over to the Chinese authorities (1946/1947). I had to take this ship because I was too young to sail under the British flag. Later, I had to cope with equipment made by the Canadian-Marconi Co on a “Fort” boat. “Fort” ships were constructed during the second-world war in five or six days. They were the Canadian equivalent of the US “Sam” ships built for the same reason in three or four days. Their hulls were welded. One was (is) kept in San Fransisco harbour as a museum.
While I was at sea I became interested in radio wave propagation and I obtained a bursary of £20, a lot of money in those days, from the Junior Institution of Engineers for an essay on the design of aerials (antenna) to minimise the effects of fading in the HF band that resulted from a ship’s rolling in heavy seas.
I spent two months or so in the maintenance laboratory at the British Siemens Co which was then based in Woolwich (nr London). The laboratory was also responsible for the development of marine radio equipment. Siemens and Halske, the electrical engineers were founded in the UK 1858 by the younger brother (Carl Siemens) of Werner Von Siemens who founded Siemens and Halske (now Siemens) in Germany in 1847. The three brothers then established Siemens Bros from Siemens and Halkse independently of the German enterprise in 1865. Carl became a British citizen and was knighted as Sir William. He built the first cable laying ship the C.S. Faraday in 1874. The company was merged with the AEI (Associated Electrical Industries) in the nineteen-fifties, and when that firm was taken over by GEC (General Electric Co) its factories were soon closed.
From sea to shore
When I was released from Siemens I went to work for a firm Siebe-Gorman-Marconi that had been established to develop an underwater TV. Siebe-Gorman specialised in underwater equipment and was known for the Davis escape apparatus used by sub-mariners. A British submarine The “Affray” was lost at sea on the 16th April 1951 and could not be traced. Its eventual finding by divers was confirmed by hastily concocted equipment that housed a standard Marconi TV camera (of the time).It read the words YARFFA. The equipment just about survived the pressure of the sea. It was decided build a proper housing and lighting system for underwater research and search that could cope with pressure at great depths. My task as a junior technician was to do numerous jobs associated with the manufacture of the housing and lighting system. The manufacturing was done at Siebe-Gorman’s works and the parts were made to measure and part of my work was to be a progress chaser of these parts. This was an experience I have always valued because it gave me an idea of how a factory worked in its totality. It also taught me to respect the qualities that craftsmen brought to their work. I was also present at trials conducted in pressurised tanks that gave me other insights into the problems of under-water engineering. Unfortunately re-numeration was very poor and I moved on to Central Rediffusion Services which was an R & D company within the Rediffusion group. It developed networks for cable TV. Again I was in a technical supporting role and did a variety of tasks associated with the development of repeaters. (Amplifiers using thermionic valves (vacuum tubes) inserted in the cable system that operated the carrier at 9 mc/s (Mega-cycles) with a bandwidth of 3 mc/s (in those days c.g.s units were the norm). I stayed with them for about a year then I went to work for Marconi Research. Here, I worked in a research project under the head of the section. My task was to construct an electro-mechanical spectrum analyser that could be used to analyse frequency diversity fading of long distance high speed telegraphy signals in the HF band. Once again I gained more experience of dealing with highly skilled craftsmen who had to make the parts needed for the analyser, and I assimilated by osmosis, I think, more knowledge of the processes of design and research. I did have to help with other projects from time to time including the investigations that were being made of forward scatter (1953).
One thing that I did in this period that has a bearing on my work in recent years (since 2007) was to go to London and attend and London University extra-mural evening course in philosophy. It has had some unexpected outcomes particularly in the last decade. Marconi’s let me go early to catch the train to go to London. I put in an extra hour or so in the evenings that I did not go to London to make up for the time lost. Working at Marconi’s continued my interest in radio wave propagation and I began to take an interest in solar radio astronomy.
Becoming a teacher
In September 1954 I took up the position of assistant lecturer in radio in the Department of Telecommunications Engineering at Norwood Technical College in south-west London near the Crystal Palace. During the seven years I was at the college because of a number of apparently disparate activities that came my way, my whole career changed.
Radio, Television and Electronic Servicing
At Norwood I joined the team that taught students who wanted to become merchant navy radio officers. Back where I had started – so to speak. But within two years I was asked to take responsibility for new day-release courses in radio, television and electronic servicing. The students were released by their employers for one day per week study at college. Their ages ranged from fifteen to fifty. The whole course (program in the US) took five years with certificate examinations at the end of the third and fifth years.
Starting amateur radio astronomy in the UK
Sometime, I think in 1955, Patrick Moore (later Sir Patrick- Hon FRS) who was a famous amateur astronomer and journalist asked me if I would consider starting a radio section for the British Astronomical Association (BAA) the representative association of amateurs. At that time interest was being generated in radio Astronomy by the building of the ‘giant’ (then) steerable radio telescope at Jodrell Bank in the UK. Even though it meant a lot of work over and above my teaching, I agreed. It necessitated me becoming a Council Member of the BAA. The BAA sections had considerable reputations for doing research. For example, at that time Patrick Moore directed the Lunar Section and also the Mercury and Venus section. He had mapped the moon and that map was used in the preparations for the first moon landings. I thought it might be possible to do some minor research in radio astronomy. Big research was not likely to be possible because of the large instruments that were required, although that did not deter Grote Reber the American amateur who is regarded by many as the founder of radio astronomy. (One of my treasured possessions is a copy of the Proceedings of the IRE (1958, Vol 46, issue1) that is devoted to Radio Astronomy and in which there is a paper by Reber). One member of the section Dr Theo Sickloss who was principal of Crawley Technical College thought it would be possible for a technical college to build a large dish. He had sketched a design and we spent many hours discussing this with a member of his staff Mr W. H. Barnes who undertook very detailed designs and built a scale model a photograph of which makes up the back piece of BAA Memoir No 40. Unfortunately the model was broken in my care, a matter about which I have considerable regrets.
The main focus of the section would in my view have to be educational and that became my first activity in scientific and technological literacy. Notwithstanding some research was done, in particular by Frank Hyde, who had a very large site at Clacton-on-Sea where he built an interferometer operating at 27mc/s. It was suggested by Anthony Hewish (later Sir Anthony – Nobel Laureate) that low frequency radio observations of the occultation of the Crab Nebula by the sun would yield useful results and Hyde set himself the task of obtaining such results. He also built a portable interferometer for use at 200 mc/s for erection in school playgrounds, provided that one had a van for its transport. It was erected in the playground of the Salesian College Battersea and I gave the sixth form (16 to 18 year olds) some lectures on radio astronomy and electronics. This was to have a profound effect on my career because the Provincial of the Salesians (Very Revd Thomas Hall) asked me to bring together a group of his teachers (Priests and Brothers) to design a curriculum for a grammar school that they were about to build, which would replace the woodwork and metalwork with studies normally taught in the lower classes with courses in modern technologies. He had two reasons for this development. The first was to bring the congregation in England back to the goals of its founder which was to provide technical education for the poor. In England they provided grammar schools that were heavily academic with little attention being given to technical subjects. He thought that such schools should be involved in modern technology, and as such he was very far sighted. The goal of producing a curriculum and designs for the laboratories was achieved and they included a laboratory for project work with a reinforced roof for space projects designed by myself. The laboratories were built and teachers were trained to teach these new subjects. The problem was that there were no approved examinations in these areas of study (eg engineering science, electronics, manufacturing processes) and this created a political task for the sponsors (see later). I submitted the story of this development as a thesis for the Fellowship of the College of Preceptors in 1963. In that thesis I argued for the first time that technological subjects were as much part of a liberal education as any other subject.
The other problem for amateurs in Britain was the high cost of pen recorders. John Smith, a member of the section and an electrical engineer designed and constructed a working pencil recorder that could be built very cheaply. Eventually we obtained a grant from the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust to purchase pen recorders that we could loan to members of the section and these were used with phase switching interferometers that were constructed at Frank Hyde’s site and Radley College where Colin Barrow a radio astronomer who had been investigating radio radiation from Jupiter at the Tallahasee (State University of Florida) was currently teaching. His designs were used. Bill Metcalfe an engineer working in the Cavendish laboratory at Cambridge also described the design of a phase switching interferometer that we circulated together with other papers in a cyclostyled monograph. By 1961 we had enough papers to produce a Memoir of the Association on Radio Astronomy and Radio Telescopes (No 40, 1961). The first paper in the memoir, another example of the encouragement we received from professional radio astronomers, was by Martin Ryle (later Sir Martin – Nobel Laureate) who was Director of the Mullard Radio Astronomy Laboratory at Cambridge. The memoir only served as a basic primer and did not give sufficient design information. This was remedied by the preparation of the cyclostyled monograph referred to above. However, three of the papers in The Memoir attracted praise from reviewers, were, by sixth formers -(students in the age range 16 to 18 in grammar schools were called sixth-formers). One paper that attracted particular attention was by Paul Murdin who became a distinguished astronomer and was for many years Treasurer of the Royal Astronomical Society. They had been asked to undertake specific projects and their progress led me to draw some conclusions about how students learnt in projects. Perhaps with tongue in cheek I sent off an article to Nature on sixth form projects. The paper was published in 1961 (191, 860-861) around about the same time that the idea of discovery learning (now called inquiry learning) was pushed by Jerome Bruner in the United States. I have wished ever since that I could dream up terms like “discovery learning”. I would have been made! I got my first citation for this paper from a distinguished American social psychologist working in Britain on the education of technologists –Marie Jahoda in her book The Education of Technologists (1963, London,Tavistock).
Observing the radio signals of Sputniks I and II the first artificial earth satellites
We were “made” as group when Sputnik’s I and II were launched. It is difficult to explain in words the impact that the launch of Sputnik I had on the world. It began the space race between the USA and the Soviet Union. In 1956 the BAA did not have a group for tracking artificial earth satellites either by optical or radio means. The Association was asked to send a representative (me) to a working party on the radio tracking of artificial earth satellites established by the British National Space Committee for the International Geophysical Year. It met on October 21st to consider amateur observations of earth satellites. There was also a representative of the Radio Society of Great Britain RSGB) present. The meeting would not have been called had not members of the two associations made successful observations of Sputnik I which had been launched on October 4th 1957. The only piece of information that we had from the Soviet Union was a sheet of A4 paper printed on both sides which was a Soviet instruction to amateurs that included the nature of the signal that would be transmitted and its frequency. The result of the meeting was that the two associations agreed to co-ordinate their work with me as the co-ordinator and Norwood Technical College as the centre for amateur observations. Our colleagues were to make measurements of the telemetry, Doppler shift and field strength of the signal. It was thought that the second satellite would be launched on November 7th 1957 but it was launched earlier and some of the stations were not ready. However, we had worked night and day to produce a handbook for observers both optical and radio. We received advice on the technology from Graham Smith (later Sir Graham- Astronomer Royal) and several colleagues in the department at Norwood contributed (notably D. G. Clarke, D. A. Strickland and J. J. Davies). With the aid of a grant from The Royal Society the papers were edited and together published as a Memoir of the British Astronomical Association (Artificial Earth Satellites No 39, 1960). Among the papers were spherical conversion tables that facilitated the derivation of hour- angles and declinations from corresponding azimuths and altitudes for optical (visual) observation. The team was led by G. E. Taylor (also a professional of the Royal Observatory) and computation which took many, many hours was undertaken on the Pegasus Computer at Northampton College of Advanced Technology under the direction of L. T. C.Clarke.
When the second satellite went up most of our teams were in place and were able to make successful observations. We sent a copy of our work together with some theoretical model on the possible use of the observations to test certain aspects of special relativity, in which I was greatly helped by D. G. Clarke a lecturer in mathematics at the College, to Prof Sir Harrie Massey FRS who was Chairman of the British National Space Committee. He invited me to present it at a special session artificial earth satellites held by the Royal Society, and to my eternal amazement it was subsequently published in The Proceedings of the Royal Society (A 248, 82-87, 1958). We were also lucky enough to have a paper accepted for Annals of the International Geophysical Year (12, 11, 912 – 916, 1961).
Later the BAA formed a separate section under H. G. Miles for the observation of artificial earth satellites. Desmond King-Hele FRS who undertook major geophysical studies using orbit data from earth satellites has acknowledged the contribution that amateurs made to such work. G. E. Perry a science master at Kettering School, an independent observer who entered the field in the early nineteen-sixties became renowned for his radio observations of satellites and his work with his students. We did achieve some educational gains in addition to the two memoirs. Members of the section gave lectures to local societies, and I gave what I believe to have been the first extra-mural course in radio astronomy at Norwood. It was launched by Patrick Moore. Both Frank Hyde and I wrote popular texts from different perspectives designed to help amateurs build their own telescopes ( 1963, Radio Astronomy Simplified, London, Arco). When I left Norwood for Birmingham it became very difficult to lead the section and it was a big learning experience to let go and I took much longer than I should have done to resign and while this was not a good service to the section it was a good lesson in management for me.
Compulsory liberal studies in technical colleges
In 1957 the Ministry of Education published a circular No 323a (a policy directive not requiring parliamentary approval). It required that students in technical education should undertake some form of liberal study, especially those on full-time courses. It was to amount to three hours per week. Not much was said about resources and my understanding was that these courses could be provided by lecturers outside the department or by the department. If they were given to outsiders to complete then they would still have to be funded by the department which might have meant the loss of staff. The Head of Department, George Danielson who had been a squadron leader in the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the war, decided that the department was going to do the liberal studies, and remembering the philosophy studies that I had listed on my application he volunteered me (RAF style) and another colleague for the task, and left us to get on with it. My interest in radio astronomy and cosmology led me to give a course on these matters. It was a mini-course on the history of science. But it was really quite unsatisfactory, so I went off to Regent St Polytechnic for one night a week took the ‘A’ level entry examinations for university and registered in the same institution for a degree in sociology and economics, taken on two or three evenings’ week.
The course leader, as we would call them today, was a Dr Stephen Cotgrove who lectured in sociology. By coincidence his doctorate was on technical education about which he published a book in 1958 (Technical Education and Social Change, London, Allen and Unwin). It showed among other things the importance of social class in the development of technical education in England in the nineteenth century and early part of the twentieth. He was also particularly concerned for technicians and technician education a matter that I took up as outlined above). One particular aspect that interested me was that of wastage (called drop-out in the US) from part-time courses which was colossal, and a number of reasons had been put forward for this in a tiny but growing literature. One of them was the sheer length of time that it took to complete them. Five years in the case of radio, television and electronic servicing. All sorts of things can happen to a person in a five year period, marriage to name but one. I expected the same thing to happen to the students on the course for which I had responsibility, and I wondered if the structure of the curriculum and the way it was taught was a factor in wastage. So I decided to investigate my own teaching. This coincided with a desire to get a teaching qualification. My other colleagues in the group had been sent off to a technical teacher training college on one day per week. They obviously enjoyed the course and had learnt much from it. I was rather envious of them. Although there was no chance of my getting released there was a recognised qualification that I could study for on my own: so, I decided to pursue that qualification with the aid of the studies I was doing for the degree. This qualification, the Licentiate of the College of Preceptors in addition to requiring knowledge of sociology and psychology applied to education it also required a knowledge of the philosophy and history of education. But it also required the candidate to pass an examination in a specialist area of his/her choice and to present a ten thousand word dissertation on some aspect of his/her own teaching, modelling the idea of teacher as researcher. So I chose the examination on “Technical Education” and submitted a dissertation on the investigation of my own teaching and its impact on my understanding of the problems of that particular curriculum.
The game in those days in technical colleges was to publish papers because certain teachers could be released from three hours teaching to do research. The work for the BAA had given me those hours. I wondered where I could publish this investigation into my own work with its ramifications for policy and the categorization of students into different levels of technician and craftsmen. Eventually I wrote it as a letter and submitted it to Nature. To my surprise they not only published it as an article but in the editorial alluded to it as an example of research that was much needed in technical education (187, 189-190, 1960).
Everything was conspiring to push me into educational research although I did not see this to be the case until a post for a Senior Research Fellow in Higher Technological Education at Birmingham College of Advanced Technology for a two year appointment was advertised. I applied for and got the post beginning work in September 1961. The appointment was in the Department of Industrial Administration and I reported to the Head of the Department Dr Tom Lupton (subsequently Professor and Director of the Manchester Business School).
The beginning of research in higher technological and engineering education, 1961 – 1963 (full time), 1963 -1969 (part time)
The task was to evaluate the spacing of sandwich courses associated with the introduction of a new diploma in technology (dip.tech) in ten Colleges of Advanced Technology (CATs) that had been created in 1956 for the purpose of producing highly qualified technological manpower for industry in the UK. The remit which was fairly long implied a study of this sub-system of the higher education system. One way of looking at this system was to consider the pathway taken by student from school through the choices made that led the student to a dip.tech course; then through college to work, and to look at the factors impinging on that pathway e.g. accreditation, industry, teaching, curriculum, competition from other qualifications and institutions. So I took what might be regarded as snapshots of all these different groups in order to try and understand what was happening. I believe it was a very rare attempt to evaluate a system. It brought me into contact with policymakers, industrialists, teachers, students and graduates and gave me some understanding of how education systems function.
Policy wise there was a hidden agenda. The chairman of the college committee on sandwich courses ( who was the principal of the CAT Dr Peter Venables, later Sir Peter) that thought of the survey really wanted it to prove that the best arrangement for the colleges were end-on sandwich courses. The staff representatives did not. The American equivalent of a sandwich course is a co-operative course. The model that was promoted Britain required a student to be full-time in college for a period of 6 months and then to be in industrial training for a further six months, this arrangement to be repeated in each of four years. However, being British the teachers in the CATs and their colleagues in industry managed to invent a variety of structures. The most popular version was one six month period in industry followed by one six month period in college repeated for four years. But there was another version in which the student did one year in industry, two years in college, a year industry and a final year in industry. In universities some students were in industry for their first year, followed by three years in college, possibly followed by another year in industry. There were as many as twenty different arrangements! All of them provided for at least the equivalent of a full university course with an equivalent amount of industrial training. The idea of end-on courses was that while students were in their six month period in industry there would be another cohort in college who would then take up the industrial places that were released when the first group came for their period in college. In this way the colleges would be open all the year round. The college staff did not like that arrangement and thought it would be under-resourced. The Principal and industrialists thought it was ideal but for different reasons. The Principal thought it would double the throughput of students where as industrial organizations thought it would give them an even distribution of students throughout the year. My inquiries showed that the number of students would not double because the firms would now divide the number of places in two to obtain an even distribution. I could not find any evidence of any large shortage of qualified manpower which rather upset a lot of powerful people. Not good for one’s career! The effect was to delay publication of this data until 1974 (The Vocational Aspect of Education, 26, (64) 65 -72). At the other end of the system, among grammar school students and their teachers we found that the CATs were not held in high esteem. Many did not understand what the CATs did or what the dip.tech was. The CATs faced status issues on all sides. They were faced with the unequal equation of dip.tech = degree, and the perception of low status in the schools. No wonder their teachers wanted to be able to award degrees. During a survey which Joan Pollitt, Vicki Mash and I undertook of grammar school students we came across other similar enquiries that we did not know about (1966, Lancaster Studies in Higher Education (University of Lancaster), 1, pp 154 -305).
Bringing researchers in technical education together
Because of this I suggested to the Director of the National Foundation for Educational Research Dr W. Wall and his colleagues and to Dr Cotgrove that there was a need both to collect information about on-going research and evaluate its potential. Dr Wall set up an ad hoc committee on research in technical education and as a result Mrs R. Ann Abel of the Foundation and I edited an occasional publication (Technical Education and Training in the UK, Research in Progress, 1962 – 64. No 8, 1964) that listed all the researches we could find, categorised them and arranged for associated commentaries to be written. The first conference on research in technical education in the UK was held in November 1962 and the occasional publication came out in 1964. I wrote the commentary on the curriculum ( pp 12 – 29) and reported that there was relatively little work on the curriculum, and this was industries second complaint. The same was true when a couple of years later I reviewed research in technical education at the conference at which the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) was founded. A revised version was published as a chapter in H. J. Butcher’s Research in Education (1968, University of London Press), and in 1971 I published a 150 page annotated Bibliography of British Technological Education and Training (London, Hutchinson). During the seventies and eighties I served on the Council of SRHE, Its publications committee and was Treasurer at the time when the now distinguished Studies in Higher Education journal was founded by the Society on the suggestion of Professor Alan Smithers. The Society also created Research into Higher Education Abstracts . I contributed hundreds of abstracts to this publication and by having to read these papers gained a wide knowledge of higher education.
Industry and the higher education curriculum especially in engineering
Industry, in particular the electrical manufacturing industry, held that the curriculum was much too much like a university degree when it was supposed to be different and better meet the needs of industry. There were different ideas among industrialists as to what this meant but G. S. Bosworth, an engineer who was Director of Personnel and Training of the English Electric Co., did have some fairly worked out ideas, which is more than could be said for academia. These were eventually translated into post-graduate training in a report of an official committee that he chaired. He did not think the colleges would respond to his ideas at the undergraduate level. Evidently the committee agreed because its recommendations concentrated on post-graduate training. But in the report there was an interesting comment on the need for curriculum studies in higher education. There existed a quango for the school system that exercised responsibility for the curriculum and examinations. It was called the Schools Council. The Bosworth Committee lamented the fact that higher education did not have the equivalent of the Schools Council. “We would note here the absence of any body which might serve as a focal point for discussion of curricula in higher education, in the way that the Schools Council for school curricula” (1966, The Education and Training Requirements for the Electrical and Mechanical Manufacturing Industries, London, HMSO). It is issues of curriculum, teaching and policy that have bothered me ever since, and that I continue to write about 50 years on!
During the two years of the inquiry I was able to meet with the teachers of management and also met with key figures in the field. Through them and Dr Lupton I obtained a considerable understanding of what happened in management education especially in relation to organizational behaviour. At the time the concept of socio-technical systems was receiving much attention together with a research report on the Scottish electrical and electronic industry that focused on innovation and its relation to organizational structure (Burns, T and G, Stalker (1961). The Management of Innovation. London Tavistock). I found a study of two electronics organizations in the United States had many similarities with the Scottish study had been done at about the same time. Its focus was on the effect of open and closed systems on performance. Little notice was taken of it in the UK but I have regularly cited it up and till the present because of its focus on open and closed systems ( Barnes, L. B (1960) Orgaizational Systems and Engineering Groups. Graduate school of Business Administration, Harvard University).
A management research unit housed in the same building as me was led by Derek Pugh and it achieved international distinction. Subsequently I developed courses in organizational behaviour for engineers at Liverpool University, and teachers at Dublin University (Trinity College).
Given the hidden agenda Dr Lupton did nothing to dissuade me from taking the “whole” study seriously. Indeed he encouraged me and supported my approach in the committee and to the Foundation. However, the result was to leave me with a mass of data at the completion of the two funded years that had not been analysed and reports that had not been written. So in October 1963 I joined the staff of Enfield College of Technology to work for the Principal of Enfield College of Technology, Dr George Brosan whom I had met through a common interest in the status of technicians. He was an electrical engineer who prior to becoming an educator had owned his own manufacturing business.
The technician problem in the UK 1960 - 1967
In the study that led to the publication of the 1960 paper in Nature I came to the conclusion that there was a need to distinguish between two levels of technician. While I made this point in the paper I did not suggest there should be a professional institution for technicians. Emboldened by the fact that I had some credibility with the Junior Institution of Engineers an offer was accepted by the Institution for a lecture on “The Technician, Education and Industry”. (In 1958, 1959, and 1960 I had received the Institution Silver medal and the Vickers Gold medal twice in successive years for papers on the Sputniks and aspects of radio astronomy. Barnes (see above) allowed me to show his model when I gave the paper on radio telescopes. Apparently no one had ever received awards in three successive years in the life of the Institution!).
The lecture was given in 1961 (summarised in the Journal of the Junior Institution of Engineers 72, 90-92, 1962). It was controversial enough to get reported in Engineering! It suggested that there was a need for an institution of technician engineers and that the early history of the Juniors’ showed how it could be achieved. While this was anathema to many members there were some who thought that this was the way the institution should go but the pressure of falling membership, and a statement circa 1960 by the Engineering Institutions Joint Council (EIJC) that to the annoyance of the Juniors listed it as an institution for technicians meant that discussions had to take place.
Dr Brosan encouraged me to try and get the Junior Institution of Engineers to change its remit and he went so far as organize a meeting between some of the professional institutions and representatives of the Juniors’ including myself to consider founding a Guild of Technicians when he was Assistant Education Officer of Middlesex County Council.
There were like minded members of the institution notably Mr John Tebby, a mechanical engineer and Mr Barry Turner an aeronautical engineer who at the time was Director of Engineering with the English Electric Company with a profound interest in engineering education. We tried to force a change by calling an extraordinary general meeting of the Institution. In our memorandum following the distinctions that I had made in the 1960 paper we proposed that the levels of higher and lower technician should be related to the grades of member and associate member. In so doing we anticipated by several years the debate which led to the qualifying titles technician engineer and engineering technician. We expected that the institution would conduct its own examination and recognize equivalent qualifications as was the case with the professional engineering educations. In practice the majority of applicants would have such equivalent qualifications. Although we were defeated the discussions continued both with the engineering institutions and ourselves. After I went to Lancaster, far away from London, I foolishly allowed my membership to lapse, a matter that I deeply regret. In 1969 a Government committee chaired by Dr H. L. Haselgrave reported on Technician Courses and Examinations (London, HMSO- National Advisory Council on Education for Industry and Commerce) . It proposed councils that would take over all the national certificate work. They would be for Technology (Technician Education Council- TEC) and Business (Business Education Council- BEC). The major effect was to reinforce the differences between engineers and technicians, the technicians being effectively barred from membership of the professional institutions whose members were now required to have degrees. Separate registers were created for chartered engineers and technicians. In 1979 in a paper to a conference that reviewed the new technician education I wrote about the Junior Institution that it had “to change its title and adopt this role, yet instead of becoming the leader it was led.”(Commentary on the Changing Pattern of Technician Education in Heywood, J (ed) (1980) The New Technician Education. London, Further Education Research Association and Society for Research into Higher Education, p 4.).
Eventually, as indicated, the Institution agreed to undertake this role and it became the Institution of General Technician Engineers in 1972. In 1976 it became the Institute of Mechanical and General Technician Engineers in 1976. In 1982 it merged with the Institution of Technician Engineers in Mechanical Engineering to become the Institution of Mechanical Incorporated Engineers (IMIE). In 1998 IMIE merged with the Institution of Electronic and Electrical Incorporated Engineers to form the Institution of Incorporated Engineers (IIE). In 2006 IIE merged with the Institution of Electrical Engineers to form the Institution of Engineering and Technology. I certainly did not have the final merger in mind but I can lay some claim to having provided a foundation in ideas and activities during the period 1960 to 1966 for the development of an institution for technicians that eventually came about. Thus, when the pressures were put on the Juniors’ from other sources the idea was not new to them.
A brief sojourn with programmed learning 1963 - 1964
Dr Brosan wanted Enfield College to become involved in education but the way teacher training institutions were regulated prevented any significant move in that direction. So he had started a division of programmed learning and he asked me to join it with the agreement that I could go to Birmingham once a week to bring that investigation to a conclusion. That I did and at the same time I learnt something about programmed learning. I did not think much of the technology and thought there would not be much of a take-up. But I also learnt that if it could be got right then it had enormous potential. Ten years later in 1975 I was able to write a report to a committee of the Irish Government on the potential of computer assisted learning for helping students in the low ability range of the spectrum (Final report of the Committee on the Form and Function of the Intermediate Certificate Examination. Dublin, Government Publications, pp *70 -*73).
Several papers were published in the International Journal of Electrical Engineering Education and other journals about the Birmingham study but it was never reported as a whole although a complete record will be found in the two volume (955 pages) thesis that I submitted for an M. Litt degree at the University of Lancaster (1969 – An Evaluation of Certain Post-War Developments in Higher Technological Education). Some of the work is now of historical interest and two papers were presented at the 2011 annual conference of the American Society for Engineering Education relating on the one hand to the compulsory programmes of liberal studies and on the other hand to the role of the British electrical engineering industry in educational policy making during that period.
I had the good fortune to become friends with Mr. J. D. (Denis) Monk who lectured in mechanical engineering in the college. He was particularly interested in the teaching of design which was relatively unusual at the time.
During 1964 The Institution of Mechanical Engineers established a panel to “discover the facts about applied science and engineering activities in grammar and public schools”. I was co-opted to the committee and assisted in the publication of its report known as “The Page report” after its author. Its publication coincided with a report from the Schools Council (its first) by one of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate on Technology in Schools (Mr. D. I. R. Porter) Taken together the Schools Council was persuaded to implement its first major project in technology (Project Technology). I was further persuaded of the need for an ‘A’ level in engineering science if the Salesian project was to be successful.
The first lectureships in higher education in the UK established at Lancaster University – 1964 – 1970
Early in 1964 the new University of Lancaster (it was to open to students in the following September) advertised a Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship in University Examinations for three years. I was lucky enough to get the job. Within a month or so Wacek Koc the other research fellow and I had been appointed to lectureships in higher education, the first ever such appointments in the UK. We reported directly to the Vice-Chancellor Mr Charles Carter (later Sir Charles). Research units in higher education were also established at the Universities of Essex and Manchester at the same time. From 1967 I was also vice-principal of the university’s County College. As in my previous jobs I engaged in a number of activities.
Examinations research and engineering education
There was not a lot of research on university examinations but what there was showed that the marking of examination papers was statistically unreliable. I thought that there were things that could be done about this but that the more fascinating and pressing problem was whether university examinations were valid. W. D. Furneaux had published a paper in Universities Quarterly in 1962 (33-47) in which he analysed the performance of engineering students at Imperial College and related it to their personalities as defined by introversion and extraversion in neurotic and stable dimensions. More intriguing to me was his finding that all of the examinations in the different subjects of engineering science measured the same thing, as determined by a factor analysis. He called it an examination passing ability. I suggested that it was a particular form of analysis or mathematical problem solving ability (Chapter on Technological Education in H. J. Butcher (ed) Research in Education Vol 1. University of London Press, 1968 pp 297 - 213).
What I thought, was the point of subjecting students to seven or eight three hour written papers that all measured the same thing? What constituted a valid examination? Before I got the chance to try and answer this question, the Vice-Chancellor let it be known to the public that he was seeking ideas for the development of an engineering department. Given my recent work at Birmingham I offered to assist. The result was that I organised a small group of industrialists and teachers to meet at regular intervals to develop a curriculum to meet the needs of engineers for design and manufacture. I fed into these meetings what was known from educational research that might be helpful (eg., The Bloom Taxonomy). It was understood from Sir (later Lord) Willis Jackson FRS who represented the University Grants Committee in these matters that money would not be forthcoming for a traditional set up, that is separate departments of civil, mechanical and electrical engineering.
The starting point of the activity was G. S. Bosworth’ s ideas as described by him to Barry Turner and myself. Barry Turner was the Director of Engineering of the English Electric Co., and subsequently principal of the company’s training college. He was an aeronautical engineer, so using the design of an aircraft ventilation system he worked out how a course for design and manufacture could be developed around a group of carefully chosen projects, and a matrix suggested by Bosworth was used to show how this could be achieved. The programme required knowledge of manufacturing of the kind that was available in some well organised undergraduate training programmes. We also showed how it could be used as a base for subsequent specialisation in one of the engineering disciplines. A large report (150 pages) was submitted to the Vice-Chancellor who distilled it into a short proposal for Senate. Unfortunately the model was outside of the plausibility structure and Senate would not support it. So he revised the submission and the result was a unitary department of engineering with a professor who was a design engineer as its first head (Professor Michael French). There has been some recent interest in the original model. The report was published in the first issue of Lancaster Studies in Higher Education (April 1966 pp 4 – 149)) and it received an extended commentary in Engineering (19th April 1966, pages 800 and 801).
Developing an examination in engineering science for the Advanced (A) level of the General Certificate of Education
Little was said about examining and assessment in that report. I had begun a study of the uses of continuous assessment in the university when I met Professor Harry Edels who was Dean of the Faculty of Engineering Science at Liverpool University to discuss the development of engineering subjects at the Salesian School at Bootle. Its needs and his coincided because he had been charged by the Northern Universities Joint Matriculation Board (NUJMB) with devising a course in Engineering Science that would be equivalent to Physics at the Advanced Level of the General Certificate of Education, the examination used by the universities for the selection of students to their courses. He believed that the way of thinking of an engineer was different to that of a physicist and that one of the reasons that able students did not want to study engineering was that they had never been exposed to that way of thinking. Given the powerful influence that examinations had on learning a new examination would have to be developed and trialled which would cause a different way of thinking. I chaired a validation working group set up to design and evaluate a new approach to assessment and examining. Based on the principle that for each significant objective there would be an appropriate method of testing, an examination comprising four sub-tests and a competency based framework for coursework assessment was devised by Derek Kelly of the Engineering Science unit at Loughborough University and me. It was trialled in 1968 and a formal examination using this model was set in 1969 for four participating schools. In 1974 in a report to the Committee on the Function of the Intermediate Certificate Examination in Ireland I called it a multiple objective approach to examining and assessment but when my colleagues Professor George Carter, (who became responsible for the examination after the early death of Professor Edels), and Derek Kelly came to publish a monograph on the development in 1986, they preferred the term multiple strategy, and it has been called that ever since. A physics examination derived directly from this model is cited in the US National Research Council’s report (2000) on Knowing What Students Know as an example of the balanced systems of assessment they called for that strikes an appropriate balance between classroom and large scale assessment. The first evaluation study of this exam was reported by Kelly and I at the 1973 ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (Proceedings, pp 269 -276. In that paper we drew attention to the low correlation between the coursework assessment and a project planning sub-test. We thought that there would be a transfer of skill from the planning and implementation of a project to the theoretical planning of a project in a written test of one- hour’s duration. At the time we had no other explanation for this other than that design ought to be taught as part of the course. Thirteen years later I offered a different explanation based on R. H. Sternberg’s triarchic theory of intelligence (1985- Beyond IQ. A Triarchic Theory of Intelligence. Cambridge University Press). I suggested that the time required for the completion of the written examination was so short and the pressures very different when compared with the time and pressures for planning in the project that different skills were called on (see section on school technology below).
With D. A Hiles as the lead investigator we evaluated teacher attitudes to project work (Nature 236, 61 – 63, 1972), and in the International Journal of Mechanical Engineering Education I reported an evaluation of discovery methods of learning in engineering science (4, 97-107, 1976).
This work with engineering science enabled me to develop what I called a theory of assessment but which I now prefer to call a philosophy.
Analysing the work of engineers
A major criticism of this model and models of the curriculum in universities made by Mr Albert Hirst, personnel director of Lucas Aerospace, was that they were not based on what engineers actually do, and should be. The Employment Department agreed to finance a project in Lucas Aerospace to determine the aims and objectives for training technologists and technicians which I began in 1969. I employed as research officer Michael B. Youngman an extremely able statistician and educator who developed new methods for analysing tasks and together with Denis Monk (Enfield College of Technology) and Robert Oxtoby (Garnett College of Education) developed an approach to the analysis of jobs that took into account organizational structure and personal dispositions. The results were eventually published in 1978 (Youngman, Oxtoby, Monk and Heywood, Analysing Jobs, Aldershot Gower Press).Until recently it was one of the few studies to try and determine what engineers do at work. It is of interest because it was one of the early attempts to use cluster analysis as one of its statistical instruments, and for an illuminative evaluation that had as its purpose the derivation of a taxonomy of training objectives for technologists and technicians (1975 – International Journal of Electrical Engineering Education, 12, 217 – 233, and 1976 -The Vocational Aspect of Education 28, (69), 25 – 38).
Teaching science to arts students
While at Lancaster I also had the opportunity to participate in a novel curriculum development. The planning committee had the idea that all students in the “arts” should study a science subject. A number of sixty contact hour courses for this purpose were scheduled in the second year. There were some difficulties with the physics courses and lecturer Dr Hugh Monatgau Pollock asked me to advise him on what changes might be made. This I did and some new course components were introduced. One of these was radio astronomy and cosmology and I ended up as a participant observer implementing the radio astronomy and cosmology component. As I came to realise, but long afterwards they combine elements of engineering and scientific literacy. In his introduction to the monograph that Hugh and I wrote (1977- Science for Arts Students) Professor Lewis Elton noted that it was the first case study of curriculum development that the Society for Research into Higher Education had published. Such studies were non-existent in the UK at the time but there was one study in the US by Professor H. Epstein called A Strategy for Education that continues to be pertinent.
Sir Herman Bondi FRS whose daughter Elizabeth took the course suggested to us that the engineering of radio astronomy was not important and that I should not have devoted so much time to it in the programmed text that I had written for the course. I did not recognise at the time that this was to distinguish between scientific and engineering literacy and that these two philosophies were different. But by 1992 I was confident enough to present a paper with the title “Toward engineering literacy: understanding the interplay between engineering and science” at the Frontiers in Education Conference (ASEE/IEEE) (Proceedings, 576-586).
Research students in engineering education
The major weakness of this two-man department of Higher education was that it was research based and had no students. I had the idea that we should try and get some research students. I knew that three of the persons with whom I had worked on the engineering study wished to pursue master’s degrees in one or another aspect of engineering education but education schools in the UK did not at that time function in higher or professional education. So with the permission of the Vice-Chancellor and subject to the regulations for graduate study these individuals registered for higher degrees. I saw this as an opportunity to get a coherent programme of research in engineering education established. Unfortunately it never developed but I think the three degrees that were awarded were the first –specifically for engineering education in the UK. The recipients were L. S. Lee (an engineer and vice-principal of the local technical college) who evaluated the attitudes toward laboratory work of mechanical engineers working in industry; J. D. Monk who evaluated the careers of mechanical engineers and their attitudes to design, and J. Moon (a training officer, and subsequently Chief Training Officer of the Engineering Industries Training Board) who evaluated the ethical attitudes of mechanical engineers. All three had papers published on their work and Lee and Moon went on to complete doctorates in other universities.
Evaluating in-company training
I received several invitations to assist companies design and/or evaluate in-company training programmes. Barry Turner who had become Principal of the English Electric Company’s Training College and W (Bill) Humble of the British Steel Corporation’s training centre at Llangattock were exceptionally helpful. I was a participant observer in one course at Llangattock and subsequently he brought the participants to Lancaster for a one week evaluation study that proved very rewarding. We gave a full account of the evaluation (with text) at the conference on creativity reported below. Unfortunately the account had to be greatly shortened because of word number. Humble was inspired to undertake role analyses of in terms of The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives of managers in a steel works, and he derived a partial Taxonomy of Industrial Objectives from that data. Examples of his work were given in my 2005 book on engineering education. Immediately, however and taken together with the curriculum study I was able to produce a paper on qualities and their assessment in the education of technologists (Bulletin (later International Journal) of Mechanical Engineering Education,9, 15 – 29, 1970).
A creative furore 1966 – 1970
Early in the 1960’s and American psychologist J. P. Guilford produced a model of the intellect that included dimensions of convergent and divergent thinking. Divergent thinking came to be loosely connected with creativity and tests were developed to assess an individual’s convergent and divergent characteristics. J. W. Getzels and P. W. Jackson produced a book that was widely cited on Creativity and Intelligence (New York, Wiley, 1962).Creativity was considered by these American authorities to be as important as Intelligence. In the UK Liam Hudson, also a psychologist used pencil and paper tests to determine the convergent/divergent characteristics of a group of sixth formers (students in the age range 16 – 18 seeking entrance to university) and concluded from the data that arts students were more likely to exhibit divergent thinking characteristics than science students (L. Hudson, Contrary Imaginations, Penguin).. This was soon turned into headlines in the press to the effect that science students were not creative. Engineering and science educators were aghast! Among other things Dr Archie Clowe the science editor of the BBC invited Dr Hudson and me to discuss the issue in a science programme that was well received. But of much greater importance was the concern among the engineering institutions and senior engineers with the need to produce engineers who were creative and innovative. The Council of Engineering Institutions and the Design Research Society sponsored a conference organized by the Design and Innovation group of Aston University in 1970. The papers were edited by S. A. Gregory and published in a Book Creativity and Innovation in Engineering (London, Butterworths, 1972). Barry Turner and Denis Monk contributed, and I contributed a paper on short courses in the development of originality (pp 157 – 170) that built on the principle suggested by F. Macdonald that “creativity is the label we apply to the products of another person’s originality” and using the data obtained from evaluations of short courses that I and others had completed discussed how they could contribute to the development of originality (-1968 F. Macdonald, Educational Psychology, Wadsworth, CA)
I have made a separate section of this debate for the simple reason that it has not gone away and the book remains highly relevant of a model that needs to be revisited. P. R. Whitfield an engineer and psychologist who contributed to the conference subsequently published Creativity in Industry (London, Penguin, 1975). He shows the relevance of convergent and divergent thinking in the engineering process. Again this book is still relevant.
Management for engineers at the University of Liverpool, 1970 - 1973
In 1970 I moved to the Faculty of Engineering Science at University of Liverpool with an agreement that I would complete the analysing jobs project as part of my work in the Division of Industrial Studies. I was also to pursue the work with the ‘A’ level engineering science examination but my main duty was to develop an interdisciplinary course in organizational behaviour that also embraced economics and the history of technology within quite severe restraints, and I forgot some of the lessons I had learnt in the engineering science project. This proved to be a difficult task and it involved writing an extensive text for the students. A substantially reduced and revised version of these notes was published as Learning, Adaptability and Change; The Challenge for Education and Industry in 1989 (London; Paul Chapman/Sage). In developing this course I began to appreciate the role of philosophy in curriculum design and in a paper that I wrote for the Educational Research and Methods Division of ASEE at the 1973 annual conference I showed how Whitehead’s philosophy of rhythm in education informed what I had done. In the last two or three years (2010-) I have been demonstrating the value of his theory in the design of courses in engineering and technological literacy in papers for the 2010 and 2012 annual conferences of ASEE. This work also led me to believe that an integrated study of this kind should be taught in schools at the Advanced Level. It would fit between Engineering Science and Mathematics. So I drafted a syllabus with the title “Man, Industry and Society” and got support from the co-ordinating committee for engineering science to forward it to the Board. I spent several years canvassing the Board but to no avail. However, one of the Engineering Science teachers Mr Colin Williams agreed that it should be trialled at Ellesmere Port Grammar School where he taught. The trial was reasonably successful but it did not help us get the proposal approved.
Applying the engineering science model to other subjects of the curriculum 1973 – 1977 (-1980)
In 1973 I was persuaded by Professor J. V. Rice of the University of Dublin (better known as Trinity College Dublin) to direct the research unit of an Irish Government’s Committee on the Form and Function of the Intermediate Certificate Examination.. The idea was that I would try and develop the engineering science multiple objective model at the school level (age circa 15). They hoped it would raise the level of skill tested above the first level of the Bloom Taxonomy (ie knowledge) to the higher order skills of analysis and synthesis or however declared. The project was restricted to mathematics and history. The procedure that was adopted was based on the in-company training courses that I had evaluated while at Lancaster and Liverpool in particular those organised by B. T. Turner at the English Electric Company’s training centre, and W. Humble at the training centre of the British Steel Corporation.
A course was provided for volunteer teachers on the design of assessment systems of about 24 hours duration over an eight week period. Separate written commentaries on assessment in history and mathematics accompanied the courses and were published by the research unit. Subsequently the teachers working in groups put together assessment systems in the two subjects. So the teachers began by working out what their objectives were before they tried to devise assessments that would tell them if those objectives had been met. Then an examination was set to the pupils in all the schools the results of which were evaluated by the research unit.
During this project we received a lot of help from the Joint Matriculation Board. Together with IBM (Manchester) we conducted what I believe to have been a world first. Using IBM machines we compared the relative merits optical mark readers and optical character readers in the marking of objective items. In the OCR mode students simply wrote in their answer as a number. If there were four options they choose 1, or, 2 or 3, or 4. Apart from the paper saved we found that answer sheets could be checked much more quickly than OMR sheets. Unfortunately at the time confidentiality prevented us from publishing the two reports although they are now available for public inspection. Teacher education 1977 – 1996.
At the end of the project in 1977 (the final report was not published until 1980) I was invited to head up a new department of teacher education that had been founded in the school of education in Trinity College. My acquaintance with engineering education was not lost for in the early nineteen eighties I was offered an appointment of visiting professor in the department of electronic and electrical engineering education at the University of Salford (see below).
The divorce between theory and practice in teaching
I cannot say that I knew anything about teacher education but I did know that the same problem existed in education departments that existed in engineering departments namely that of a divorce between theory and practice. Moreover the post-graduate diploma for training teachers for secondary schools was not recognized in England because the practical work required was insufficient. So I set out to rectify this situation. I had succeeded to the point where I had persuaded the Irish Department of Education to place the recognition of the TCD diploma as an item for discussion in the Anglo-Irish talks. It was never resolved in the talks because EU regulations came in that dictated the conditions for recognition.
In the meantime I changed the style of examination question to try and ensure that students would try out theories in their teaching practise. The responses did produce a wealth of material from which it was possible to construct a book but there was a strong suspicion that overall the goal was not being achieved (1982 –Pitfalls and Planning in Student Teaching. London, Kogan Page). So I borrowed the idea from my first research at Norwood that the best way to show how theory and practice related was to get the students to evaluate their own teaching by designing lessons to test out a particular theory, implement and evaluate them. This programme which evolved over a period of 12 years began in 1984 with some relatively small exercises. By the time that it had finished I had abandoned the syllabus in favour of discussions about the exercises which had now become quite large, and the exam had been reduced to one prior notice question given at the beginning of the course.
The scale of the exercise brought me into conflict with my colleagues who had to contend with the fact that in Ireland ‘the Prof’ was thought to be the person whose requirements should be met first! Much thought was given as to how to reduce the load and quite substantial changes were made but it was still a tough course to negotiate. After I had retired, in evidence to a government committee on secondary teacher training I described the programme and gave supporting evidence for its success in order to recommend that the period of training be extended from one to two years. That part of the submission was eventually published in 2005 in a festschrift to Professor Hans Gerhard Klinzing. (pp 44 – 65 of Rupp, A (ed). Moderne Konzepte in der betrieblichen und universitären Ausund Weiterbildung, Tubingen, dgvt-Verlag).
When I took on the headship of the department the curriculum was taken as a given. In Professor Eggleston’s terminology it was “received” by the teachers from the Department of Education on the authorisation of the Minister for Education. It was not open for discussion. My view was that a university department of education had an obligation to critique the curriculum. Moreover, if teachers’ voices were to be heard in national debates which more often than not they were not, then they had to have a profound understanding of the curriculum process, how the curriculum changed, and what the possibilities and need for curriculum change were. So I insisted that in the courses we offered for both primary (elementary) and secondary (post-primary) teachers that there was a compulsory course in curriculum studies. While there were one or two UK publications that were useful I decided that there was a need to write a text specifically for the purposes I had in mind (1984, Considering the Curriculum During Student Teaching. London, Kogan Page). My approach to curriculum design derived from the experience of developing the engineering science model was that of engineering design. Five aspects of this approach to the curriculum informed my approach to the 2005 book on Engineering Education (Engineering Education. Research and Development in Curriculum and Instruction. Hoboken, NJ. IEEE/Wiley).
First is the principle (inherent in the work on engineering science) that objectives will only be obtained if the procedures for assessment, instruction and their associated materials are specifically designed to meet those objectives. It may well be found that the achievement of a particular objective takes much more time than is allowed. This means that some syllabus content may have to be dropped from the syllabus. If curriculum is simply regarded as the learning of content rather than cognitive skills the demands will increase for more time and longer courses. Second relatively simple statements of aims and objectives may lead to radical changes in course structure and instruction.
Third related to this is the principle that it is the “key” concepts that are objectives and as important as the cognitive skills to be developed.
Fourth is the principle that instruction and assessment have to be aligned with the student’s stage of development. I had learnt this from Professor Richard (Dick) Culver of Binghamton University (SUNY) who had written a paper in Engineering Education (with J. T. Hackos 73, (2), 221 -226, 1982) that explained how the engineering curriculum could be re designed to meet the requirements of Perry’s model of cognitive development. He allowed me to reproduce his models in my curriculum book (pp 189 -191).
Fourth, again from engineering, the curriculum process is a complex and not a simple system. This was a concept that many student teachers had difficulty in grasping. They considered the idea of the curriculum to be an abstract concept, and the notion that it was a system very difficult. They really wanted from their courses tips on how to teach. There are many similarities with the situation in engineering today. The curriculum is largely “received” subject to local tweaking. There is little discussion at college level of the curriculum per se. Curriculum reform is based on the development of existing models and demands for extension into what are commonly regarded as “soft” subjects are met with the demand for the overall length of the programme to be increased by year.
My endeavours in engineering education had just about lapsed but in 1983 I received a premium from the Science, Education and Technology division of the Institution of Electrical Engineers for a paper on the technique of screening in the determination of objectives in the engineering curriculum (IEE Proceedings 128, Pt A. No 7, 511-519). I developed this idea again at the 2008 ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (Proceedings S4H pages 1 -6). Whereas in the former I had focused on psychology as the screening aid in the later I focused on philosophy as the aid.
In 1984 to my delight I was offered a chair in technological education at Brunel University. To my regret after months of searching I had to decline the chair because I could not find a suitably priced house in the London area. I was most disappointed when along came the Christian Brothers and asked me to advise them on the introduction of technological studies in the curriculum of their schools. Together, Brother Michael Murray and I toured Europe and the UK to find out what technological activities were going on in schools. At the same time we organized in-service courses for the for the summer of 1986 in electronics given by Dr Philip Matthews of my department and micro-electronics using staff from the University of Salford where I was a visiting professor in the department of electrical engineering. They brought with them a bus that had been specifically designed for such training. We also organized a national conference where in a paper I defined technological literacy, set out aims and objectives and suggested how it might be achieved (1986 - in Heywood, J and P. Matthews (eds) Technology, Society and the School Curriculum: Practice and Theory in Europe. Manchester, Roundthorn, pp 221 – 256). As indicated previously I also offered an explanation of the low correlations we found between coursework and a written paper intended to test skill in planning (see above). I suggested that the written paper forced the student to use a different skill set because of the time requirement. At the same time I presented an illustrated model of how technology supports the economy and society. In the last three years year (2010/2012) I have used the same model to describe the differences between engineering and technological literacy, as well as to indicate the importance of values in engineering design.
The Christian Brothers proceeded to build an integrated workshop facility for technology and a laboratory for technical investigations at their training college. Stanley Owen of North Manchester College in the UK designed a short intensive three week course in manufacturing technology that he gave to transition year (TYO) pupil’s (age circa 15-16). It ended with each pupil using CAD to make a chess piece. The course was designed to illustrate the key processes in manufacturing through ‘make’ projects. We found that the girls were equally as good and sometimes better, than the boys (1990 -International Journal of Technology and Design Education 1, (1), 21- 32 with S. Owen). A similar intensive approach over a two week period with the purpose of showing TYO pupils how to conduct “technical investigations” was taken by Derek Kelly (1996, Proceedings Frontiers in Education Conference, 388 – 393 with D. T. Kelly). I shared the evaluation of these courses and from them I was able to derive a curriculum based on Whitehead’s rhythmic model of learning for the transition year in Ireland. In 2012 I argued that courses such as these have a role to play in the development of technological literacy, and once again I showed the relevance of Whitehead’s philosophy (ASEE annual conference, Distinguished lecture).
The success of these courses led the university to establish a division of in service training (later called continuing professional development). The technology courses were developed into programmes for a diploma. In parallel management diplomas were developed and within these there was an Introduction to Management course, and a course in Instructional and Curriculum Leadership. I taught both of these courses until 2010. In 1988 I attended the first conference of the Design and Technology Association at Loughborough University organised by John Smith. I came to the conclusion that there seemed to be enough research being produced to merit an academic journal in the field of design and technology. I discussed the matter with John Smith and we approached Professor John Eggleston with the idea. He agreed and arranged for Trentham Books to take on the publication of the International Journal of Technology and Design Education. I wanted to emphasise the “technology” component so that it would attract papers on engineering as well as school technology. The first issue came out in 1990. I edited the first three volumes but found that being based in Ireland made the task very difficult. The journal has been very successful under subsequent editors and is now owned by Springer.
Visiting Professor at Salford University 1984 – 2005
Circa 1984 Professor George Carter of Salford University asked me to become a visiting professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering. He hoped that together we would be able to improve teaching and learning in the Department. Shortly afterwards the Vice-Chancellor initiated a Teaching Quality Improvement Scheme that would direct funds toward teachers who would undertake projects to improve teaching and learning. At the time the scheme was unique. He invited Professor John Cowan a structural engineer with a major interest in student learning (then of Herriot-Watt University and later Director of the Open University in Scotland) and myself to become advisers to the committee. This we did for twenty years. In essence we evaluated project submissions, advised project holders when requested and promoted projects. We were pro-active and received a positive response. We were able to fund an outside consultant (Dr James Freeman a psychologist with the Department of General Practice, The University of Manchester) to help with several of the projects. The model was a variant of the teacher as researcher paradigm. Applications could be submitted from any subject area in the university.
In 2000 together with J. M. Sharp and M. T Hides I edited, Improving Teaching in Higher Education which was a collection of 17 reports published by the University of Salford. The first paper by Cowan and myself was on curriculum renewal in an institution of higher education is relevant to the understanding of change in institutions. I used data from the projects in engineering in a paper on improving engineering teaching through classroom research at 1996 Frontiers in Education Conference (ASEE/IEEE) ( 1996 –Proceedings pp1303 -1305).
The Frontiers in Engineering Conferences (ASEE/IEEE)
In 1989 attended the FIE conference in Binghamton where I met the general chair of the conference Professor Richard Culver with whom I had previously corresponded about his work with the Perry model (see above). He subsequently came on a sabbatical to Salford University where he undertook a comparative study of Perry levels among Salford engineering students and similar students in the US.
The paper I offered at the conference was a defence of the use of relatively few domain objectives to focus on the key cognitive skills required and in assessment to limit the rubrics used to these essentials. It was a rejection of long lists of objectives and an attempt to reconcile the holistic with the objective. The paper ended with a consideration of the implications for curriculum design (Proceedings, 235 -241, 1989).
Apart from the paper that I gave at the conference I felt that I could bring an education perspective to future conferences that seemed to me to be missing, and this I tried to do in the next decade. By the mid nineteen-nineties in the UK the idea that university teachers should be trained for teaching had taken hold. The training would be given by education specialists rather than by subject teachers trained in education. I held the view, in so far as engineering was concerned, that were sufficient publications by engineering educators to make up a course of training equivalent to graduates intent on becoming teachers. I thought there were areas where education specialists could help. So I set out to contribute to the FIE conferences on an annual basis.
In 1999 at the ERM meeting at FIE in Puerto Rico I annoyed everyone by suggesting that ERM should get involved in teacher training and award a certificate. The point was taken that ERM ought to be looking at leadership in the field and I was enjoined to meet with Dr Barbara Olds (ERM Chairperson) and Dick Culver. Out of this discussion came a special seminar and a paper (Proceedings T3E 13 -17, 2000) at the next FIE (Kansas City) on instructional leadership, and I prepared a document that showed what knowledge was required and how much of it was met by studies in engineering education based on a paper on improving quality in engineering education given at an earlier conference (1995-Proceedings 2a3 pp 8 – 13). In the following year at ASEE (Albequerque) ERM sponsored an invitation forum on leadership in engineering education organized by Dick Culver and myself. By that time my notes had expanded! Subsequently with the help of Dr Norman Fortenberry they were brought together as a book that was published by IEEE/Wiley (Engineering Education: Research and Development in Curriculum and Instruction). In 2006 it was awarded the outstanding research publication of the year by the Division for the Professions of the American Educational Research Association. I used it as a model for Instructional and Curriculum Leadership: Towards Inquiry Oriented Schools published in 2008 (Dublin: National Association of Principals and Deputies/Original Writing). The material for the six chapters on instruction was derived from the 5000 or so from the teaching as research case studies that I collected from the students between 1985 and 1996 (see above). I always wished that I could have got engineering teachers to carry out similar activities with their students. Again, in the following year, using material from students who attended my professional development programme in Management I substantially rewrote Learning, Adaptability and Change to focus specifically on schools and gave it a different title (2009, Managing and Leading Schools as Learning Organizations: Adaptability and Change. Dublin, National Association of Principals and Deputies/Original Writing).
Karl Smith and Roy McGrann and I launched a special session at the 2007 FIE on the role of philosophy in engineering education. This topic has taken off and a one day seminar was held at FIE 2011 which was accompanied by a large annotated bibliography completed by Adam Carberry, Bill Grimson and myself.
Since 2006 I have contributed papers at the ASEE annual conferences and in 2010 I came back to engineering literacy through a contribution to the newly founded ASEE division for Technological Literacy, and through the division’s sponsorship was honoured to give a distinguished lecture at ASEE 2012. One weakness in engineering education is especially as it relates to policy making is the history of engineering education. In an attempt remedy this defect in so far as the UK is concerned I presented two papers on two aspects of the work that I had done in the early nineteen-sixties. And there the storey ends with over 150 publications- books, papers, and articles.
Retrospect and Prospect
It is evident that my career happened more by luck than good judgment. It may be viewed as a response to the knowledge available to me at a particular time. It is certainly a response to certain key individuals in authority who thought I had the potential to do what they thought needed doing, who were not particularly worried about whether I was qualified by examination to do that task. I worry that in the future people and systems will not be so flexible. It was certainly a quest for identity, collecting qualifications en-route. It was also a quest for meaning and the quest for identity often got in its way. Education and engineering and technological education became inextricably interwoven like a piece of twisted lighting flex, both informing each other, and some people were kind enough to say they liked what I did and encouraged me to keep going. So at the beginning of 2013 I am still involved in engineering and technological education and for that I am very grateful.
A colleague having read the above asked me to comment on the future, so here goes. Educators have failed to agree an adequate technical pedagogy. Research continues apace, some of its results are taken up but many teachers think it is of no consequence and that is the biggest challenge facing educators who think that its product “education” has something to say. There seems little doubt that higher education is in a state of crisis. Apart from anything else the new media face it with immense problems. The danger is that engineering educators will do what many of their students do and take a “surface” rather than “depth” approach to the solution of the problems. Now is the time for an in-depth discussion of the aims of higher education and the structures needed to achieve those goals however defined. Engineering education is well placed to lead such discussions.