Educational encounters of the third kind

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An engineer who becomes an educator in a school of software engineering has the mission to teach how to design and construct software systems, therein applying his or her knowledge and expertise. However, due to their engineering background, engineers may forget that educating a person is not the same as designing a machine, since a machine has a well-defined goal, whilst a person is capable to self-propose his or her own objectives. The ethical implications are clear: educating a free person must leave space for creativity and self-determination in his or her own discovery of the way towards personal and professional fulfillment, which cannot consist only in achieving goals selected by others. We present here an argument that is applicable to most fields of engineering. However, the dis-analogy between educating students and programming robots may have a particular appeal to software engineers and computer scientists. We think the consideration of three different stages in the educational process may be useful to engineers when they act as educators. We claim that the three stages (instructing, training and mentoring) are essential to engineering education. In particular, education is incomplete if the third stage is not reached. Moreover, mentoring (the third stage aimed at developing creativity and self-determination) is incompatible with an educational assessment framework that considers the goals of the engineer are always given by others. In our view, then, an integral education is not only beyond programming the behavior of students, but also beyond having them reach those given goals.
Mentoring, Creativity, Entrepreneurship, Engineering education, Personalized education, Evaluation styles, Abet outcomes, Self-determination
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