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A master of his trade, in the garage and in the classroom

October 11, 2013

Eric Fry is not your average automotive service technician. Not only does he know his way around an engine compartment, he’s also changing how automotive repair is being taught in classrooms.

The instructor and coordinator of the Ford ASSET Diploma Program at The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), Fry is graduating with a master’s degree from SFU’s Faculty of Education.

A student in the Critical, Creative and Collaborative Inquiry program, his thesis examined methods for developing his students’ transferable critical and creative diagnostic abilities.

 “Automotive technology advances so rapidly that the ability to transfer skills between familiar and unfamiliar systems is vital in order to accurately repair today’s vehicles,” he says.

In his BCIT classroom, a poster asks students: “Central Question: What is the most accurate and efficient method used to maintain and repair a vehicle?” Other posters highlight 12 fundamental concepts addressing this central question.

Fry designs his lectures to support the connection between the 12 fundamental concepts. He got the idea to apply the concept to trades training after attending the Foundation for Critical Thinking Conference two years ago, where author Gerald Nosich introduced him to conceptual learning.

“I think my students benefit greatly by realizing that the 12 concepts over the white board have been determined to be the most important by a panel of automotive experts,” say Fry, a Ford master technician.

“This causes them to focus and structure their understanding around these foundational principles. My expectation is that conceptual learning will accelerate my students’ ability to become a master within their trade.”

Although certification is a four-year process for an automotive apprentice, generally it takes more than seven years to become proficient in the trade.

“My hope is that this might be reduced to five years or less with the help of conceptual learning.”

Impressed by Fry’s work, his BCIT colleagues are considering implementing elements of conceptual learning in their own course delivery to create connections between course content.

Written by Dixon Tam for SFU News.