Engineering thresholds in engineering curriculum review

Lead name:
Artemis Stamboulis
Discipline:
Collaborating Institutions:
University College London; University of Oxford; The Open University
Funding call:
RAEng - £9,940
Programme contact:
Royal Academy of Engineering
Abstract
We aim to develop a gradual process of curriculum review and optimization for introductory Engineering courses at the University of Birmingham, using the basis of threshold concept theory. Threshold concepts developed from a UK national project, which focused on student learning in different disciplinary areas. It has been suggested that threshold concept theory can act as a powerful curriculum development tool. We will attempt to explore these threshold concepts and consider ways of helping the students pass through the thresholds, thereby enabling them to become fully developed professionals. We will start with the creation of a growing conceptual map of introductory level concepts to be transcended by the University of Birmingham first year engineering students. We will investigate the nature of the identified thresholds, ways of helping students pass through the associated ‘portals’ (teaching approach) and ways of assessing any transformation (student assessment) and we will develop a model for curriculum development in engineering based on threshold concepts theory for dissemination to all engineering programs in UK and beyond.
Project Aims

The main aim is to develop a gradual process of curriculum review and optimization for an introductory Engineering course, using the basis of threshold concept theory.

Project Objectives

1. Determination and investigation (mapping) of thresholds to be transcended by the University of Birmingham first year engineering students.

 

2. Investigation of the nature of the thresholds in (1), ways of helping students pass through the associated ‘portals’ (teaching approach) and ways of assessing any transformation, i.e. epistemological and ontological shifts on a student’s mastering of a  threshold concept (student assessment).

 

3. Creation of a growing conceptual map of introductory level concepts accessible to curriculum designers.

 

4. Development of a model for curriculum development in engineering based on threshold concepts theory for dissemination to all engineering programs in UK and beyond.

Project Outcomes

1. Identify and compare a number of threshold concepts in a first year engineering course that is taught across all engineering disciplines in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences of the University of Birmingham.

 

2. Analyse and compare threshold concepts identified by the lecturer of the course and the students of different engineering subjects and relate to “cultural” identification (how the students identify being for example a civil engineer.

 

3. Conceptual map of thresholds within the selected core engineering introductory course.

 

4. A ‘knowledge creation’ workshop where key stakeholders (lecturers involved in engineering education) will be invited, to identify threshold concepts.

 

5. Evaluate the current course design in light of the identified threshold concepts and make recommendations for re-design of the course where appropriate to support students learning.

 

6. The key stakeholders here are all involved in engineering education, and are directly involved with supporting students in their learning. The project outcomes will be useful for all engineering lecturers across the UK and beyond, in supporting their students with these critically important learning outcomes.

 

7. It is intended that this will contribute to a nationwide discussion about engineering thresholds through the Engineering Subject Centre and HE STEM meetings/networks.

 

BENEFITS

 

Engineering threshold concepts have been introduced to the University of Birmingham recently with an HE STEM grant to support identification of Engineering threshold values in 1st year Engineering courses that are related to threshold concepts in the broader view of developing a new methodology to design curricula in Engineering. From this point of view, the outcomes of this project will benefit the University of Birmingham teaching and learning approach in the long term as it has been given an emphasis on educational enhancement at College level in the view of the current educational changes. Threshold concepts have been viewed in a very positive way by the Educational Enhancement subcommittee of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences which Artemis Stamboulis is chairing and have been adopted as an innovative way of exploring modern methodologies to improve current curricula. This of course will have an impact at a national level in the long term when the outcomes of this research will be applied into current curricula.

 

If you wish to know more about this project, please contact the Programme's Engineering team at HESTEM@raeng.org.uk with Reference Number: FP038 OCT2010.

Contact Artemis Stamboulis