Published in Proceedings of the 35th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference: Indianapolis, Indiana, October 19, 2005, pages 27-32.
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Six different engineering courses were taught using aspects of the classical ballet instruction model in organization, teaching methods, and learning strategies. There was a strong focus on performance. The courses spanned sophomore to senior levels. Some aspects of the ballet model worked well: setting rules for the Sacred Space for learning, the beginning activity (“stretch”), the overall organization of the class session, communicating the known ideal, including historical background, and using demonstrations. Some aspects did not work (thus far): exams are not yet performances on stage, little practice or rehearsal occurs, little competition between students occurs, asking students questions in class is uncomfortable, and many students do not want to be in class. New ideas presented include “casting” for exams and highlighting the role of repetition in learning. It was deemed worthwhile to apply the performing arts model to foster increased learning during engineering class.
Materials Science and Engineering