Enhancing the Educational Development of Individuals in Group Projects

Enhancing the Educational Development of Individuals in Group Projects

P. Hermon, C. McCartan, G. Cunningham (2009).  Enhancing the Educational Development of Individuals in Group Projects. 11.

Group Design Built Test (DBT) projects are well established as an effective means of integrating a number of the engineering science elements of the curriculum in the context of the practical realization of the solution to a design problem. In professional practice these activities are typically carried out in teams. In order to prepare students for what they will be expected to do in industry many accrediting bodies, such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), require that degree programs contain at least one group DBT project.

At Queen’s University Belfast these projects typically involve students identifying a customer need and then developing a viable innovative solution to the point of a working prototype, and also developing an associated business plan for the product introduction. As such these projects provide an opportunity for personal development in all of the CDIO phases.

With the introduction of a new degree in Product Design and Development (PDD) in 2004, based on the CDIO standards and syllabus, a decision was made to introduce such group DBT projects from first year and to repeat these throughout years 2 and 3 with projects of increasing complexity and duration. What has become evident is that the learning strategies of first and third year students differ considerably and that the learning environment needs be controlled differently for the younger students in order to facilitate their educational development across a full range of skills and attributes to produce balanced learners who are able to contribute to all phases of a new product development process.

The objective of a professional group of designers is to maximize the output of the team by getting each member to concentrate on what they do best. In the educational environment such an approach does not help students develop the areas in which they are weakest. They tend to avoid tasks in favor of someone in the group who is more competent in a particular area and as a result individuals build on their inherent strengths and fail to develop their weaknesses. It is therefore important to construct a regime, particularly in first year, which enables development and focuses less on rewarding the final output and more on encouraging participation in all aspects of a project. 

The paper discusses observations of running DBT projects in Stages 1, 2 and 3 over the first 4 years of the PDD degree and provides an analysis of the effectiveness of policies and procedures introduced to enhance the educational development of individuals within group DBT projects. Results and conclusions will be drawn from ongoing monitoring, questionnaires and student feedback which has been carried out as part of the evaluation of the new PDD pathway. 

Authors (New): 
Paul Hermon
Charles McCartan
Geoffrey Cunningham
Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Design Built Test (DBT) projects
Skills development
Cognitive development
Personal Development Planning (PDP)
Curriculum planning
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