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Assessing progression in engineering study programs

Ahlberg, Anders LU and Wahlgren, Marie LU orcid (2011) SEFI 2011 Annual Conference p.608-614
Abstract

Swedish engineering education is organised as study programs consisting of intertwined chains of course units. Formal program objectives integrate skills, scientific attitudes and engineering knowledge. However, assessment of learning and educational quality typically focuses outcomes of individual course modules. It is our concern that study programme quality and student progression are hard to evaluate and stimulate in the prevailing modularised system. We have therefore investigated programme objectives and student progression and subsequently designed activities to evaluate and stimulate integrated engineering capacities and evaluate progression among freshmen and more senior students of chemical- and biotechnology engineering... (More)

Swedish engineering education is organised as study programs consisting of intertwined chains of course units. Formal program objectives integrate skills, scientific attitudes and engineering knowledge. However, assessment of learning and educational quality typically focuses outcomes of individual course modules. It is our concern that study programme quality and student progression are hard to evaluate and stimulate in the prevailing modularised system. We have therefore investigated programme objectives and student progression and subsequently designed activities to evaluate and stimulate integrated engineering capacities and evaluate progression among freshmen and more senior students of chemical- and biotechnology engineering programmes. To make the aim of progression explicit we first interviewed students, alumni, teaching staff and senior industrial staff (engineer employers), thus elucidating core educational and professional values. Interviews indicate that students typically develop a sense of "becoming engineers" rather late in their training (6th semester). All interviewees emphasized problem-solving abilities as the most desirable competence. However, teaching staff focussed more on subject discipline content whereas students and industry employers go beyond subject discipline and request professional social skills. A real-world case was used to monitor (and stimulate) engineering programme progression in 1st and 3rd year student groups by means of qualitative assessment of engineering skills including critical problem-solving skills, appropriate use of technical and scientific language, knowledge of chemistry, biochemistry and engineering, statistical reasoning, team work behaviour, business-mindedness, delimitation of professional role, risk management, and work ethics. The student teams of both groups did well and solved the main aspects of the case although the senior student teams managed to do it on a more complex level. There were other clearly detectable aspects of progression among the 3rd years students, for instance problem solving strategies, team work behaviour, and independent use of available presentation materials. We conclude that observed case sessions can (1) be used confidently to assess progression of learning in engineering study programs (2) reveal students' abilities to combine knowledge from different fields and courses, and (3) demonstrate weaknesses in the progression. The method is however probably too complex to allow valid cross-institutional comparisons.

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Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
and
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to conference
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Case methodology, Curriculum building, Engineering, Learning progression, Progress testing
pages
7 pages
conference name
SEFI 2011 Annual Conference
conference location
Lisbon, Portugal
conference dates
2011-09-27 - 2011-09-30
external identifiers
  • scopus:84945917174
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
93f8f3e2-5f09-4f47-bd3c-8ce0218cce03
date added to LUP
2018-10-21 17:27:05
date last changed
2020-01-13 01:05:02
@misc{93f8f3e2-5f09-4f47-bd3c-8ce0218cce03,
  abstract     = {<p>Swedish engineering education is organised as study programs consisting of intertwined chains of course units. Formal program objectives integrate skills, scientific attitudes and engineering knowledge. However, assessment of learning and educational quality typically focuses outcomes of individual course modules. It is our concern that study programme quality and student progression are hard to evaluate and stimulate in the prevailing modularised system. We have therefore investigated programme objectives and student progression and subsequently designed activities to evaluate and stimulate integrated engineering capacities and evaluate progression among freshmen and more senior students of chemical- and biotechnology engineering programmes. To make the aim of progression explicit we first interviewed students, alumni, teaching staff and senior industrial staff (engineer employers), thus elucidating core educational and professional values. Interviews indicate that students typically develop a sense of "becoming engineers" rather late in their training (6<sup>th</sup> semester). All interviewees emphasized problem-solving abilities as the most desirable competence. However, teaching staff focussed more on subject discipline content whereas students and industry employers go beyond subject discipline and request professional social skills. A real-world case was used to monitor (and stimulate) engineering programme progression in 1<sup>st</sup> and 3<sup>rd</sup> year student groups by means of qualitative assessment of engineering skills including critical problem-solving skills, appropriate use of technical and scientific language, knowledge of chemistry, biochemistry and engineering, statistical reasoning, team work behaviour, business-mindedness, delimitation of professional role, risk management, and work ethics. The student teams of both groups did well and solved the main aspects of the case although the senior student teams managed to do it on a more complex level. There were other clearly detectable aspects of progression among the 3<sup>rd</sup> years students, for instance problem solving strategies, team work behaviour, and independent use of available presentation materials. We conclude that observed case sessions can (1) be used confidently to assess progression of learning in engineering study programs (2) reveal students' abilities to combine knowledge from different fields and courses, and (3) demonstrate weaknesses in the progression. The method is however probably too complex to allow valid cross-institutional comparisons.</p>},
  author       = {Ahlberg, Anders and Wahlgren, Marie},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {01},
  pages        = {608--614},
  title        = {Assessing progression in engineering study programs},
  year         = {2011},
}