Uncovering threshold values in first year engineering courses and implications for curriculum design

Lead name:
Artemis Stamboulis
Discipline:
Collaborating Institutions:
London School of Economics, Open University, University College London
Funding call:
RAEng - £5,000
Programme contact:
Royal Academy of Engineering
Abstract
This project will explore threshold values in first year engineering courses in Metallurgy and Materials at the University of Birmingham and consider how curriculum design can support students in developing these values. Threshold values relates to the idea of threshold concepts developed from a UK national project, which focused on student learning in different disciplinary areas. Meyer and Land (2005) and others realized that there were certain concepts, which were held to be central to the discipline, that would open up required systems and ways of thinking and yet were troublesome for students. It has been discovered that not only can threshold concept theory help in focusing students and teachers attention on the tricky ‘stuck places’ in a subject, it can also act as a powerful curriculum development tool, where there is a strong tendency to overcrowd the curriculum (Cousin, 2006, Land et al, 2005, Meyer et al, 2006). In this project we are concerned with the values which students need to develop in order to become a socially responsible engineer. It has been discovered that in some cases these appear to be thresholds for students. We will attempt to explore the values which students find troublesome in relation to their engineering studies, and consider ways of helping them pass through the thresholds, thereby enabling them to become fully developed professionals.
Project Aims

This project will investigate first year student experiences of engineering and explore how they relate their courses to learning about the values that engineers need to develop to become socially responsible engineers. The project will then make recommendations about how in first year, curriculum design initiatives can enable all students to navigate these threshold values as they enter further into their studies towards becoming an engineer. This is supportive of a curriculum design that enables students to adopt a deep approach to their learning that is more than a set of technical know-how but encourages a progressive view of developing a good engineer.

Project Outcomes

By the end of this project we will be able to:

 

Identify and compare a number of threshold values in first year engineering courses in Metallurgy and Materials at the University of Birmingham.

 

Analyse and summarise how first year students relate the threshold values to those of being an engineer.

 

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

 

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.

 

If you wish to know more about this project, please contact the Programme's Engineering team at HESTEM@raeng.org.uk with Reference Number 2010MAY_9.

Latest updates

This project is now complete; please download the case study from the right hand side menu.

Sapna Somani 20.04.2012

The project team has been invited to present their results and to deliver a talk on their project in an Education Research Conference at the University of Birmingham on the 19th of April 2011.

Sapna Somani 10.08.2011

Interviews with staff members and students have been taken place. The results have been disseminated in a workshop in Australia, Perth on the 29th of March 2011.

Sapna Somani 10.08.2011

If you wish to know more about this project, please contact the Programme's Engineering team at HESTEM@raeng.org.uk with Reference Number 2010MAY_9.

Sapna Somani 09.08.2011

Contact Artemis Stamboulis