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Competence Development and Employability Prospects: Using Non-traditional teaching Methods in a Changing Higher Education Environment 
University West, Department of Engineering Science, Division of Land Surveying and Mathematics.
University West, Department of Engineering Science, Division of Process and Product Development.
2010 (English)In: European Conference on educational research: ECER 2010, 23-27 August, Helsinki, 2010, p. 451-Conference paper, Published paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The cultural changes in the modern society create new challenges for educators in Europe. The higher education curriculum has changed from factual knowledge acquisition to developing students' competences and skills in response to a changing professional environment. This paper analyses student experience and academic results in generic and subject-specific competence development in order to evaluate the potential of using problem-based learning (PBL) and project-based (PrBL) learning to increase the  students´ prospects of employment. The fast pace of technological advancements, interdisciplinary work, changing organisations and globalisation of the workplace characterize the modern knowledge-based society. Equipping students with competences required for their social and professional integration, successful career and personal development is a key mission of the higher education sector. Promoting effective teaching and learning methods facilitates the acquisition of professional skills and competence, and at the same time addresses the needs of a diverse student body in higher education. 

This paper explores the opportunities for implementing PBL and PrBL in a range of programmes at the University West, Sweden and Lancaster University, UK focusing on the development of generic and subject specific competences. This is an on-going collaboration between two universities [1-3]. 

PBL and PrBL are the examples of collaborative student-focused learning and are supported by constructivist theory [4-6]. These methods encourage deeper learning via meaning construction, connecting ideas as well as creating meaningful artifacts. They stimulate a collaborative process of building among participants, develop self-directed learning, improve student performance and develop a range of study skills through creating an informal environment for learning. 

Our study was carried out at the University West, Sweden and Lancaster University, UK in 2009. The objectives of the study were: 

• To assess the level of student-acquired competences, generic and subject-specific (mathematics, engineering)

• To evaluate the quality of student experience by assessing the impact of PBL and PrBL on students' competence development;

• To identify the best practice and opportunities for promoting effective teaching and learning methods to enhance student employability prospects. 

Method

In Sweden, the first-year students in the ' Surveyors' and the second-year students on 'Basic Principles of Turbomachinery and Hydraulics' undergraduate programmes participated in this study. The lectures were delivered in a traditional way; PBL was used throughout tutorials. The students solved applied mathematical problems aimed at acquiring a set of competences working in small groups. To evaluate the outcomes of this study, each group had to reflect on what they learned during each PBL session, how the session affected their learning process and their competence development. At Lancaster University the first-year mechanical engineering students reflected on their experience of project-based learning. The students had to design, build and test a lifting device working in groups of four. The lectures and tutorials in the programme were conducted in a traditional way. By the end of the project the students responded to a questionnaire consisted of open-ended questions.

Expected Outcomes

The results showed that the Swedish students evaluated PBL method highly, finding it useful, activating and valuable. The students indicated they developed problem-solving skills, advanced their analytical skills and ability to apply mathematical tools. These competences are important for their future employment. The students rated collaboration with peers highly. The students at Lancaster University pointed out the necessity of developing time management, communication with peers in the groups and organisational skills. The students stressed that problem-solving and decision-making were very important as they had to choose the right design concept to work with. Assigning tasks and requiring completion by a required date were the skills that the students had to learn while working as a team. The paper concludes with recommendations for promoting PBL and PrBL as they represent useful educational tools which encourage the development of generic and subject-specific competences. They also provide the opportunities to accommodate a diverse range of student learning-styles and academic backgrounds.

 

References

1. Nilsson G. and Luchinskaya E. "Problem-based Learning and competence development: a Case Study of Teaching Mathematics to Computer Science Students", Journal of Research in Teacher Education, 2007, No 3. p 13-21.

2. Nilsson G. and Luchinskaya E. Using Problem-based and Peer-assisted Learning in Teaching Mathematics to University Students: Focus on Competence Development. Paper presented at the European Educational Research Conference, ECER 2009, Vienna, Austria, September 2009.

3. Luchinskaya E., Nilsson G. and Williams C., "Developing students' competences in the light of Bologna process: the responses from Sweden and Russia". Paper presented at the European Educational Research Conference, ECER 2008, Gothenburg, Sweden, September 2008.

4. Vygotsky, L. S. Mind in society. The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1978

5. Phillips, D. Constructivism in education: Opinions and second opinions on controversial issues. Chicago, IL University of Chicago Press, 2000

6. Light, G., Cox, R., & Calkins, S. (2009) Teaching and learning in higher education: The reflective professional. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2009. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. p. 451-
National Category
Computational Mathematics
Research subject
Mathematics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hv:diva-3093OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hv-3093DiVA, id: diva2:392233
Note
För fulltext kontakta ECER eller författarenAvailable from: 2011-01-26 Created: 2011-01-26 Last updated: 2011-01-31Bibliographically approved

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