My work in the Designing Education Lab has been focused on the concept of pathways. Traditionally, people have used a pipeline metaphor to describe the engineering trajectory, a direct route into STEM. But in reality, there are on-ramps and off-ramps to support multiple pathways into engineering. With support from the National Science Foundation, we have been following how engineering students at Stanford and across the nation navigate their education and transition into the workforce. What kinds of learning experiences influence undergraduates’ interest in pursuing not only a major but also a career in engineering? There are many factors that contribute to students’ decisions, whether it’s financial reasons, intrinsic interest in the work or a desire to address the critical challenges facing our society.
Across higher education, concerns about employability have been expressed by current and prospective students, families and employers concerned about their future workforce. We see internships becoming increasingly important in postgraduate plans. Faculty and instructors are also innovating in how they teach via design-thinking approaches, cross-disciplinary team-based learning, real-world case studies and projects, and experiential education involving industry partners. As a result, there is greater awareness about the knowledge, skills and abilities students need in order to be successful in their future careers. As educators, we hope to encourage students to consider the breadth of knowledge and skills they are acquiring both inside and outside the classroom, on campus and off campus. The value of these collective learning experiences is realized by providing students multiple opportunities to reflect and to iteratively practice telling their stories to a variety of stakeholders.