Towards deeper comprehension in higher engineering education: rethinking "in theory yes, but not in practice"

Aki Korpela 1 * , Timo Tarhasaari 2, Lauri Kettunen 2, Risto Mikkonen 2, Hanna Kinnari-Korpela 1
More Detail
1 Department of Electrical Engineering, Tampere University of Applied Sciences, Tampere, Finland
2 Electromagnetics, Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland
* Corresponding Author
EUR J SCI MATH ED, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp. 396-407.
OPEN ACCESS   1131 Views   795 Downloads
Download Full Text (PDF)


In the economic pressure of recent decades, many universities have invested in increasing the number of accessed and graduated students. However, this has led to another problem: there is not enough higher learning in higher education. According to generally accepted view, the problem lies in the eagerness of overplaying immediate skills in engineering education. To manage with the situation we propose that special attention is paid to logical reasoning behind the models employed in elementary engineering education. The idea is based on the hierarchical nature of physics, which enables a consistent method to avoid the risk of overplaying the immediate skills. In this paper, we seek for higher learning by proposing such a method and presenting a case study of solar electricity. When modelling the nature, on each level of hierarchy certain laws of physics lay the foundation for explanations there. We call them the cornerstones of modelling. Due to the hierarchical nature of physics, the cornerstones on a certain level of hierarchy are only built from the ones on the lower level of higher abstraction. When we stand above the cornerstones, they appear as unchallenged rules. But most importantly, if we take a hierarchical step towards fundamental models and look underneath the cornerstones, instead of unchallenged rules, they appear as testable properties. This epiphany about the hierarchy of physics enables a consistent method for deeper understanding in education. In the end, we seek for higher learning by challenging the meaningfulness of a common utterance "in theory yes, but not practice".


Korpela, A., Tarhasaari, T., Kettunen, L., Mikkonen, R., & Kinnari-Korpela, H. (2015). Towards deeper comprehension in higher engineering education: rethinking "in theory yes, but not in practice". European Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 3(4), 396-407.