Advising Students in Technical Projects - Recognizing Problem Scenarios

Advising Students in Technical Projects - Recognizing Problem Scenarios

J. Bærentzen, K. Singh (2014).  Advising Students in Technical Projects - Recognizing Problem Scenarios. 10.

In this paper, we consider the advisor's role during the technical work and the thesis preparation for a student in the final phase of a course of study in an engineering education.

We initially claim that there is a marked difference between the learning that takes place regular course work and the learning that takes place during project work. Concrete differences include that - an important part of a project is the concrete formulation of the problem in which the student must be involved. Thus, there cannot be a completely fixed curriculum, unlike in a course. - projects are carried out individually or in very small groups. For an interesting project, the precise outcome cannot be known in advance. - time must be carefully managed and divided between seeking information, solving technical problems, and dissemination.

While students work hard during projects and advisors will do their best to support the students' activities, it is not uncommon that a student fails to meet either her own expectations and/or those of her advisor. Occasionally, this is true also of students who perform brilliantly in regular courses. The goal of this paper is to relate the authors’ investigations into the project advisory process and to provide recommendations for other engineering educators.

After an initial discussion of how the project advisory process is typically conducted, we review a number of projects (in abstracted and anonymous form) and analyze under what conditions it is likely that a failure to meet expectations arises. This leads us to a small number of common scenarios, where the student is likely to underperform.

Common to these scenarios is a lack of balance between the necessary activities in an engineering education project. As our main contribution, we investigate and categorize these imbalances leading to the aforementioned scenarios. Finally, we distill suggestions for best project advisory practices.

Proceedings of the 10th International CDIO Conference, Barcelona, Spain, June 15-19 2014

Authors (New): 
Jakob Andreas Bærentzen
Karan Singh
Technical University of Denmark, Denmark
University of Toronto, Canada
Project-Based Learning
Advisory Process
Design-Implement Experiences
Active learning
CDIO Standard 5
CDIO Standard 7
CDIO Standard 8
CDIO Standard 11
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