2022 First-Year Engineering Experience

Student and Instructor Reflections on Integrating Short Mindfulness-Based Meditation Practices into a First-Year Engineering Design Course

Presented at Technical Session T1B

Engineering students in the United States are experiencing substantial stress and threats to their well-being. Mindfulness-based meditation practice may help students to better manage these challenges as mindfulness-based interventions have been found to improve college students’ well-being and critical competencies. However, only limited mindfulness-based research has been conducted with the engineering student population. Nonetheless, this research indicates that engineering students are receptive to mindfulness-based interventions and perceive benefits from participating in these practices.
This work integrated mindfulness-based meditations into a first-year engineering design course to explore how these practices affect engineering students. All practices were formatted as five-minute guided seated meditations. These practices were implemented as part of two larger studies. During the first study, the course was taught online and during the second study, it was taught in person. To understand students’ perceptions of these practices, written reflections were collected in the first study and follow-up interviews were conducted with students in the second study. Generally, students perceived these in-class practices positively and described improved stress management, being more self-aware, and improvements in learning and coursework. Students also detailed some drawbacks to completing these practices and provided recommended changes for improving the integration of these practices into the course.
Additionally, the authors share their insights on implementing these practices into their courses. We highlight the differences between implementing these practices within an online and in-person course. We also discuss challenges associated with engagement, the timing of the practices, and logistical issues. Lastly, considerations and suggestions are provided for implementing these practices into a first-year engineering course.
Overall, the results of this work encourage the integration of mindfulness-based practices into introductory engineering courses as students perceive many benefits. However, at the same time, it is necessary to recognize that implementing these practices can be challenging for instructors. The integration of mindfulness-based meditation practices into engineering courses could contribute to an improved student experience and the development of holistically sound engineers. Future research should investigate the effects of implementing these practices in other types of engineering courses like a first-year seminar course.

Authors
  1. Dr. Hannah Nolte The Pennsylvania State University [biography]
  2. Dr. Elizabeth Marie Starkey Pennsylvania State University [biography]
  3. Dr. Christopher McComb Carnegie mellon University [biography]
  4. Dr. Nicolas F Soria Zurita The Pennsylvania State University & Universidad San Francisco de Quito
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