A Transition Study to Support Curriculum Reform

A Transition Study to Support Curriculum Reform

C. McCartan (2015).  A Transition Study to Support Curriculum Reform. 11.

The School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Queen’s University of Belfast has been a collaborator in CDIO since 2003 and has an ongoing change management plan for curriculum reform based on the CDIO principle and methodology. In 2004 the School developed and implemented a new degree programme based entirely on this ethos and has been progressively feeding this pedagogy and experience back into its other degree programmes. In addition, it has been disseminating this best practice internally within its university and at regional and international CDIO events in subsequent years. The School has therefore gained experience in key pedagogical areas such as curriculum change management, workspace design, active and interactive learning, introductory courses, mathematics provision, peer assessment and review, and the management/supervision of capstone projects.

Since 2010, the School and several other CDIO collaborators in the UK have been involved in a project to help manage the transition to university for their students. It is widely acknowledged that the transition from school or college to university is a critical stage in generating and maintaining student motivation and improving engagement and hence retention. The first phase of this project involved developing an online diagnostic tool for assessing aspects of the knowledge and experience of incoming engineering students. This phase was disseminated at the 7th International CDIO Conference in Copenhagen, describing the background, rationale, aims and objectives of the project and discussing some of the salient issues involved with its implementation.

This report will present information on the second and third phases of the project, including its aims, objectives, expected outcomes and outputs. In addition, specific data gathered will be presented which helped identify more clearly the knowledge, understanding and attributes of students entering engineering programmes from 2011 to 2013 at Queen’s University Belfast, which was a key objective of the study. A significant outcome of this data was to identify a specific problem relating to the level of mechanics knowledge which faculty perceived students as having. For many years, higher education institutes around the world have been reacting to the well documented issue of teaching mathematics to engineering students. However, in recent years, significant data has been published in the UK to show that students entering engineering courses are not as well prepared for the first year curriculum in mechanics; certainly less than may be perceived by Engineering Schools in UK universities.

This will be discussed and further data presented showing the correlation of entrance qualifications with the relevant results from the transition project. In addition, further evidence highlighting this problem with mechanics learning from historical student attainment records will be discussed in order to corroborate and support curriculum reform in this regard. This study will therefore help to verify if these perceptions regarding mechanics stand scrutiny and also validate specific objectives and outcomes of the transition project.

Proceedings of the 11th International CDIO Conference, Chengdu, China, June 8-11 2015

Authors (New): 
Charles McCartan
Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Transition from school to university
web-based diagnostic tool
curriculum reform
student support
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