Thomas Nelson Educators Among Presenters at National Science Foundation Conference

November 3, 2017
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Thomas Nelson Community College Industrial Technology and Mechatronics Professor Jean Frank and Biology Professor Jennifer Martin were among presenters at the 2017 National Science Foundation (NSF) – Advanced Technological Education, Principal Investigator Conference. The Oct. 23-25 event took place in Washington, D.C.   

During their presentation, Frank and Martin discussed the progress of a $190,039 NSF grant Thomas Nelson received in July 2016 for an initiative called Innovative Model to Augment Technician Education with Competencies (IMATEC).  “Many industry representatives and faculty members from other colleges were interested in the roll out and the assessment strategies,” said Frank.

She said IMATEC aims is to incorporate industry-defined workplace soft skills into manufacturing technical courses and programs at Thomas Nelson and eventually across all STEM disciplines. According to Frank, the soft skill employers identified as most needed are communication, professionalism, problem solving and teamwork. In addition to honing students’ soft skills, IMATEC aims to increase the awareness of career opportunities and inform students about the technical advancements within manufacturing.

Frank said the grant allows the development of modules focused on honing students’ soft skills. The modules, she explained, are formatted to define the soft skill and provide relevant manufacturing examples for each of the subcategories. Examples include real-world industrial scenarios built into exercises for students to role-play in a lab exercise situation. Assessment of soft skills will occur via student interactions, student written work and through self-assessment.

To gather baseline information before the skills modules are introduced, said Frank, students will participate in  a survey to examine their perceptions regarding the importance of hard vs. soft skills in manufacturing careers and their preparedness for each skill. Students will also have written exercises, activities and role-playing scenarios, based on industry examples. Once modules have been introduced and activities to foster soft skills development have been implemented, students will be reassessed.

Finally, she noted, the American Association of Colleges & Universities VALUE Rubrics will be incorporated for assessment purposes.