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Exploring the dual nature of engineering education: Opportunities and challenges in integrating the academic and professional aspects in the curriculum
KTH, School of Education and Communication in Engineering Science (ECE), Learning.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8664-6854
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Engineering education is both academic, emphasising theory in a range of subjects, and professional, preparing students for engineering practice. Ideally, these aspects are also in a meaningful relationship in the curriculum, but the dual nature ideal is simultaneously a source of tensions. This theme is explored in the context of engineering education development, represented by the CDIO (Conceive, Design, Implement, Operate) approach. Cases on programme and course level illustrate how the dual nature ideal is pursued in the integrated curriculum. CDIO is also compared with PBL (problem/project-based learning), and opportunities to further emphasise research in the CDIO community are explored.

Two critical accounts suggest widening the perspective from curriculum development per se, to the organisational conditions. First, the views of Carl Richard Söderberg (1895-1979) are compared with CDIO, showing considerable similarities in ideals, arguments, and strategies. This leads to a critique of the swinging pendulum metaphor. Then, experiences of unsustainable change leads to a model called organisational gravity, explaining the stability of programmes and implying two change strategies, with different availability, risks, resource demands, and sustainability of results.

Refuting a rationalist view on organisation, an institutional logics perspective is used to analyse the tensions within engineering education. It is suggested that the logics of the academic profession dominates over the logics of the engineering profession, hence favouring “teaching theory” over “teaching professionals”. The integrated curriculum strategy is contingent on educators’ ability to unite theoretical and professional aspects in courses, and on the collegial capacity for coordination. Finally, the CDIO initiative is conceptualised as a field-level driver of institutional innovation, identifying some strategies for legitimacy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2017. , 92 p.
Series
TRITA-ECE, 2017:2
Keyword [en]
engineering education, professional education, dual nature, engineering education development, CDIO Initiative, CDIO approach, CDIO Standards, PBL, engineering education research, Carl Richard Söderberg, organisational gravity, institutional logics
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Technology and Learning
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-217315ISBN: 978-91-7729-596-9 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-217315DiVA: diva2:1155372
Public defence
2017-12-13, Salongen, KTHB, Osquars backe 31, Stockholm, 14:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20171108

Available from: 2017-11-08 Created: 2017-11-07 Last updated: 2017-11-10Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Improving student learning in STEM education: Promoting a deep approach to problem-solving
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Improving student learning in STEM education: Promoting a deep approach to problem-solving
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This paper addresses educational practice related to problem-solving within STEM education. A conceptual framework is shaped by conceptualising problem-solving first as an educational aim, then as a learning activity. Five principles for purposeful active learning are derived. Through this theoretical lens we investigate an active learning method called student-led recitations. In this activity students are randomly selected to present solutions to given problems, requiring them to solve the problems in advance and prepare for presenting their solutions. Drawing on the conceptual framework and informed by course results and qualitative data in the form of student interviews and teacher experiences, we analyse the teaching method. One conclusion is to challenge recitations based on teacher demonstrations of problem-solving. We suggest that student-led recitations are a cost-effective intervention, improving learning while affording more stimulating roles to both students and teachers. 

Keyword
problem-solving, Feisel-Schmitz technical taxonomy, deep and surface procedural approaches to learning, active learning, student-led recitations
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-217276 (URN)
Note

QCR 20171107

Available from: 2017-11-06 Created: 2017-11-06 Last updated: 2017-11-07Bibliographically approved
2. PBL and CDIO: Complementary models for engineering education development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>PBL and CDIO: Complementary models for engineering education development
2014 (English)In: European Journal of Engineering Education, ISSN 0304-3797, E-ISSN 1469-5898, Vol. 39, no 5, 539-555 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper compares two models for reforming engineering education, problem/project-based learning (PBL), and conceive–design–implement–operate (CDIO), identifying and explaining similarities and differences. PBL and CDIO are defined and contrasted in terms of their history, community, definitions, curriculum design, relation to disciplines, engineering projects, and change strategy. The structured comparison is intended as an introduction for learning about any of these models. It also invites reflection to support the understanding and evolution of PBL and CDIO, and indicates specifically what the communities can learn from each other. It is noted that while the two approaches share many underlying values, they only partially overlap as strategies for educational reform. The conclusions are that practitioners have much to learn from each other’s experiences through a dialogue between the communities, and that PBL and CDIO can play compatible and mutually reinforcing roles, and thus can be fruitfully combined to reform engineering education.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2014
Keyword
CDIO, problem-based learning, project-based learning, PBL, educational development, curriculum development, change strategy
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Education and Communication in the Technological Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-185178 (URN)10.1080/03043797.2014.895703 (DOI)
Note

QC 20170505

Available from: 2016-04-12 Created: 2016-04-12 Last updated: 2017-11-07Bibliographically approved
3. The role of CDIO in engineering education research: Combining usefulness and scholarliness
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The role of CDIO in engineering education research: Combining usefulness and scholarliness
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The CDIO Initiative is a community for engineering education development, but since 2016 its annual conference also calls for research. This paper considers possible roles for CDIO in the field of engineering education research (EER). The EER landscape is explored, in particular whether the aim of research is to seek knowledge to improve engineering education, or to seek knowledge for its own sake? Although usefulness and scholarliness are not mutually exclusive, the priority matters throughout the research process and in evaluating work. Introducing concepts from similar debates, this paper argues for embracing the tension, to form a productive relationship between scholarliness and usefulness. A dual objective is implied: usefully contributing to the improvement of engineering education and establishing a recognised research field enabling sustainable careers for researchers. Quality mechanisms are necessary for staking out borders and upholding standards, at least to weed out work that is neither scholarly nor useful.

Keyword
The CDIO Initiative, engineering education research, engineering education development, research aims, academic discipline, usefulness
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-217274 (URN)
Note

QC 20171106

Available from: 2017-11-06 Created: 2017-11-06 Last updated: 2017-11-08Bibliographically approved
4. Academic and professional values in engineering education: Engaging with history to explore a persistent tension
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Academic and professional values in engineering education: Engaging with history to explore a persistent tension
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The tension between academic and professional aims of engineering education is a remarkably consistent challenge facing engineering educators. Here, some historical roots of this issue are traced through the life and work of Carl Richard Söderberg (1895 - 1979), who emigrated from Sweden to the U.S. for an illustrious industrial and academic career. While Söderberg was a proponent for a more science-based curriculum, his rationale was related to solving real professional problems, and he would come to criticise the distancing of engineering education from engineering practice. Söderberg’s views are compared to a present-day reform concept for engineering education, the CDIO approach, founded by MIT and three Swedish universities. The similarities show the persistence of the issue, as many of Söderberg’s ideals, arguments, and proposed strategies, are fully recognisable in the current discussion. Further, Söderberg and CDIO share the ideal of mutually supporting professional and disciplinary preparation, implying that the tension should not be a zero-sum game. The paths to this ideal were different, however, as Söderberg wanted to integrate theoretical aspects to improve an overly practical education, while CDIO is about improving an overly theoretical education by integrating also other necessary professional aspects.

Keyword
Engineering education, academic and professional aims, history of reform, Carl Richard Söderberg, CDIO, MIT, Chalmers
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-217275 (URN)
Note

QC 20171106

Available from: 2017-11-06 Created: 2017-11-06 Last updated: 2017-11-07Bibliographically approved

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