23 CURIOSITY ISSUE TWO students neglected to vent any of the drains in their design, so I asked that they perform an experiment on water draining with and without venting to demonstrate why venting was necessary. In the face of technical challenges, they also learn the value – and the cost – of consulting with knowledgeable sources to help them arrive at solutions.” As the deadline approaches, Jablonski notes that students often become discouraged when they realize they are unlikely to complete the project. “At this point it is important to provide constructive coaching,” she says. “In those last few days of intense work, students discover that they do have the skills and resources available to complete the deliverables and often produce impressive work.” The outcomes are a professional presentation delivered to the class and visiting experts, a complete project report including technical and economic feasibility, and a confident group of students ready to tackle the next project. Although some find the ill-defined problem and the potential for failure unsettling, most students recognize the value of what they’re learning and appreciate the challenge. “I think many technical courses are well-suited for adaptation of KEEN outcomes,” Jablonski says. “My interpretation of making a course ‘KEEN- oriented’ is to teach using authentic problems. This drives discussion of technical concepts in team projects that require the preparation of a significant technical report outlining methods, assumptions, and feasibility analyses (technical, economic, etc.). The explicit objective is for students to develop an understanding of the big picture of the field, the topic, and the related societal need and economic impact.” Fostering the right mindset about failure is important, she adds. “Although it is often a struggle, students value these lessons because it prepares them for the reality of making decisions with incomplete information and working through design alternatives. The most rewarding part of teaching with the fail forward model, and perhaps the most valuable outcome, is building students’ confidence in both their knowledge and their willingness to just give it a try.” When asked if incorporating KEEN elements has reduced the rigor of her courses, Jablonski is direct: “The simple answer is, absolutely not. The notion that we have to cover some number of topics, give a certain number of exams, or otherwise utilize artificial constructs that have no operational basis in the working world of engineering is somewhat ludicrous.” Jablonski finds that her students benefit when they have to go through a discovery phase before beginning design of a potential solution, and it’s become an important goal for her courses. “Context is instrumental in getting students to deeply engage with course material and technical concepts, so asking them to solve authentic problems – and also having the expectation that they learn independently – will help the vocabulary and the concepts to ‘stick.’ There is evidence from project-based learning that this approach results in greater understanding and retention of concepts.” CURIOSITY