Teaching Approach

Dr Thomas Lagö has introduced a concept in engineering teaching, combining his real-life experience with mathematics, that is rare to find. It is not uncommon that the mathematical content takes away the ability to understand the application and real-life value of the material presented. It becomes too abstract for meny students! By excluding the math, the often needed depth is gone, and the material might become weak, failing to fulfill its original aim. With the math included, making it too abstract, the student might lose the application (not seeing the forest for the trees). Lagö’s “Artist Approach” has been different, but highly appreciated, and by using the following metaphor this approach is explained:

The artist starts with a frame, defining the size and proportions of the intended art work. Then, the artist often uses a pencil to sketch and draw the intended outline for the picture, and main objects are sketched using strategic pencil lines. Special emphasis is given on proportions, and high level of detail is intentionally left out. When this work is satisfactory done, the artist then starts to perform the real painting work, using the sketch as a reference, and the frame as the limiting boundaries. The details in terms of objects and color is successively introduced, and at the end the painting is enhanced in its depth by introducing the shadows. Math is often like the shadows, a very important depth introducer and depth enhancer, but what would the shadows mean without the real picture? 

How many people could visualize the picture and its content using the shadows alone. Very few! It is sometimes possible, but very difficult. Despite that, many universities are almost obsessed with the shadows, since they give such depth and picture enhancement that it is too easy to become almost “obsessed” with the Power of the Shadows. Many of these “shadow persons” have a clear understanding of the invisible background picture and the boundaries defined by the frame, and they manage to create the real picture inside their head by using the shadows alone. What if most students and receivers of this “shadow approach” do not have the background and ability for the necessary abstract thinking process to successfully manage this visualization process? Wouldn’t the picture disappear in the shadows? Yes, it would, and Lagö has thus introduced the concept of:

  • Building the framework
  • Pencil Sketching
  • Picture Painting
  • Shadowing

This teaching concept has been the guideline in his course development and he has received critical acclaim on the successful concept. Mathematical depth is important, and that will be presented in the “Shadowing Courses,” once the students passed the previous courses or can demonstrate that knowledge. The shadows are not allowed to “distract” the student when the frame is defined or the sketch is outlined. This concept, the “Artist Approach,” allows for a golden balance between math and a more practical approach , and gives math its needed position and value as a depth builder and technology enhancer.