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  • 1.
    Kristiansson, Lilia
    University West, Department of Engineering Science, Division of Mechanical Engineering. University West, Department of Engineering Science, Division of Industrial Engineering and Management, Electrical- and Mechanical Engineering.
    Competence development through Project-based learning in higher education i Sweden and England2012In: 40th annual congress of the Nordic Educational Research association, NPFP/NERA: 8-10 mars, 2012, Copenhagen, Aarhus: Department of Eduation, Aarhus University , 2012, p. 286-Conference paper (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The focus of higher education curricula has been changing from factual knowledge acquisition to developing students competences in response to a changing professional environment in the context of a knowledge economy and labour market globalisation.

    Despite these social changes, existing teaching and learning strategies in Engineering are still mainly lecture-based.

    We investigate competence development using a Project- Based Learning (PrBL) environment on a range of Engineering programmes at Lancaster University, UK and Högskolan Väst, Sweden. We evaluate the PrBL potential to enhance student employability prospects.

    PrBL is an example of collaborative student-focussed learning underpinned by constructivist theory which encourages deeper learning via construction of meaning, connection of ideas and creation of meaningful artefacts. PrBL stimulates collaborative knowledge building among participants and develops a range of skills through creating an informal learning environment. First and second-year students on undergraduate programmes in Engineering departments in both universities with projects as part of their course participated in this study. In the UK the students had to design, build and test two types of robots. The Swedish students were given a project to make calculations for a pump with preset parameters. The projects were designed to help the students acquire competences relevant to their future career. All students worked in small groups. After finishing their projects, the students completed an open-ended questionnaire about their experiences.

    The students evaluated PrBL positively, stating that they developed problem solving and analytical skills and the ability to apply mathematical tools. They highly rated collaboration with peers and emphasised the necessity of developing time management, communication and organisational skills.

    Higher education systems in Europe including Scandinavia are facing new challenges in developing students' employability. We conclude with recommendations for promoting PrBL in university courses as it contributes to competence development and is an efficient tool when administrative resources are limited and when academic staff are faced with large student numbers.

  • 2.
    Kristiansson, Lilia
    University West, Department of Engineering Science, Division of Industrial Engineering and Management, Electrical- and Mechanical Engineering.
    The impact of Industry Placements on Motivation and Competence Development of Engineering Students in Sweden2013In: The 41st Annual Congress of the Nordic Educational Research Association: Disruptions and eruptions as opportunities for transforming education. Abstract book., Reykjavik: Northeastern Educational Research Association, NERA , 2013, p. 333-Conference paper (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    In the current economic climate increasing pressure is put on universities to provide opportunities

    for students to develop skills necessary for their future employment. Courses which offer a

    placement in industry are becoming more appealing to students. We investigate the impact of

    undertaking an industry placement on engineering students’ motivation for learning and

    competence development.

    Research demonstrates that industry experience increases students’ interest and makes them

    more aware of how theoretical course knowledge is applied to practical situations. This increases

    their interest in the subject because they are more aware of its relevance to their future work. In

    this study we looked at students’ experiences from their work placements and the competences

    they developed. On the basis on this knowledge we investigated the opportunities to introduce

    new elements in course delivery to increase the motivation of non-placement students and

    compared the competences developed by the students who undertook placements and those who

    did not.

    The study was carried out at the University West, Sweden in 2010-2012 among the mechanical

    engineering undergraduates. The students were asked to complete a questionnaire. The students

    who went on placements had to answer an extended set of questions about their placement

    experience and competence development. The non-placement students answered questions about

    competence development only.

    The collected data showed that the placement students gave very positive feedback about their

    practice and the analysis demonstrated that this practical experience supports and inspires their

    further study. The students’ evaluation has encouraged tutors to introduce new practice-based

    problems in relevant courses, conduct mixed group tutorials and share placement students’

    experience with all of their peers. We believe that these new practices will improve motivation

    among non-placement students and enhance their learning process. We also anticipate that

    placement and non-placement students will have developed different sets of competences, which

    will inform our teaching practices. This study will be important for other tutors who have students

    on courses with an industry experience option who are interested in using the placement

    students’ experiences and competence development to enhance motivation in the class as a

    whole.

  • 3.
    Kristiansson, Lilia
    et al.
    University West, Department of Engineering Science, Division of Mechanical Engineering. University West, Department of Engineering Science, Division of Industrial Engineering and Management, Electrical- and Mechanical Engineering.
    Luchinskaya, Daria
    Is co-op education a source of increased motivation for learning?2012In: The European Conference on Educational Research, ECER 2012: 18-21 sept, 2012, Cádiz, 2012Conference paper (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Many universities across the world offer a model for course delivery which combines academic study with a placement in industry. This educational model originated in the U.S., where the automobile industry wanted to ensure a supply of skilled engineers. This educational process has been described in different ways, for example in America it is known as 'cooperative education', or co-op, while in the UK it adopted the name of 'sandwich courses'.

    There is a vast amount of literature which assesses the role of work practice in the development of competences and skills of future professionals, the effect it has on the transition of graduates into the work environment, how it shapes their career aspirations etc. At the same time there are studies which look into the effect of placements on students' motivation in their academic performance.  The research results demonstrate that students who have chosen a co-op model are more motivated in their studies than those students who have chosen not to go on placements [e.g. 1, 2]. The main reasons for the increased motivation of students who chose the co-op route were that their work experience provided them with evidence that the theoretical knowledge they learn at the university is relevant to their work.

    Despite of the benefits that co-op model can bring into students' learning experience, the success of this model across different countries varies. For example, in Sweden the co-op model is very popular among students. However, in the UK the number of students entering this route is decreasing [3].

    In this paper we address the success of the co-op model, especially in relation to students' motivation for their academic study using the co-op programme offered by the Engineering department, University West, Sweden as an example. The aim of this study is to investigate which aspects of academic knowledge students find useful for their practical placements and how their experience of applying this knowledge can be put into practice to increase to motivation for learning of the other students who choose the traditional educational route.

    The main two objectives of educators are: first, to contribute to students' subject knowledge; second, to motivate students to learn. We assume that students coming into higher education have a so-called intrinsic motivation when they begin their studies although it is not always the case in practice. Our task as educators is to stimulate individuals, offer them external motivation to improve their skills and to ensure that they do not lose interest in their selected topics [4].

    To achieve this goal a university teacher can build on positive students' attitudes by creating an open and imaginative atmosphere at lectures and tutorials, for example through the use of alternative teaching methods, such as problem-based learning or project-based learning.

    The study was carried out at the University West in 2010/11. The students who participated in the study opted for the co-op model and the participating tutor taught a module on Solid Mechanics on both co-op and traditional routes.

    MethodFor this study, a mixed-methods approach was used comprising open-ended questionnaires and observations. The students who went on placements were asked to complete a questionnaire at the end of each placement period. The questionnaire was designed to capture the students' experience during their practice focusing on the effect of the placements on their motivation in their further academic study. As part of the existing curriculum the students who went on placements had also to give a presentation to their peers at the end of each placement period where they summarised their work, the responsibilities they had, the engineering problems they were solving, and reflected on their experience. These presentations were observed by the tutor. The data from the questionnaires and presentations were later analysed for students' opinions about the opportunities that they received during their placements for deepening their academic knowledge. Based on the results of this analysis, new engineering problems adapted from the students' practice were introduced into the Solid Mechanics course delivery together with new teaching methods, such as problem-based learning and project-based learning, to achieve higher motivation in students who have not opted for a co-op model [5, 6].

    Expected OutcomesThe collected data showed that the students gave very positive feedback about their practice and the analysis demonstrated that this practical experience supports and inspires further study. In their reports students suggested using new practical-based problems in relevant courses. Using real-life problems can make learning richer and more rewarding for all students.The co-op students can share their work experience with their non-co-op peers by giving presentations regarding the relevance of the academic course content to their job, the problems they were solving while on the placements, the opportunities for challenging future jobs as well as increased confidence and self-esteem. The tutor observed that problem-based learning and project-based learning based on working in groups as well as the use of the real-life problems increased motivation in non-co-op students. They became more responsible, active, and knowledge-seeking and improved their communication with peers. The tutor also observed that having a mix of students who had placements and those who did not in the groups formed a stimulating learning environment. In conclusion, suggestions were made in relation to what can be incorporated into a range of engineering programmes to increase students' motivation and enhance their engagement with the learning process.

  • 4.
    Nilsson, Galina
    et al.
    University West, Department of Engineering Science, Division of Land Surveying and Mathematics.
    Kristiansson, Lilia
    University West, Department of Engineering Science, Division of Mechanical Engineering.
    Enhancing students creativity using project-based learning in engineering in higher education: Case study from Sweden2011In: World Conference on Education, Imagination and Creativity, WERA/International conference on education, TERA 2011: 5-9 dec 2011, Taiwan, 2011Conference paper (Refereed)
  • 5.
    Nilsson, Galina
    et al.
    University West, Department of Engineering Science, Division of Mechanical Engineering and Natural Sciences.
    Luchinskaya, Elena
    Leeds Beckett University, Lancaster University, United Kingdom.
    Kristiansson, Lilia
    University West, Department of Engineering Science, Division of Mechanical Engineering and Natural Sciences.
    Enhancing Students' Performance In Maths Through Supplemental Instruction2016Conference paper (Other academic)
  • 6.
    Nilsson, Galina
    et al.
    University West, Department of Engineering Science, Division of Land Surveying and Mathematics. University West, Department of Engineering Science, Division of Mathematics, Computer and Surveying Engineering.
    Luchinskaya, Elena
    Kristiansson, Lilia
    University West, Department of Engineering Science, Division of Process and Product Development. University West, Department of Engineering Science, Division of Industrial Engineering and Management, Electrical- and Mechanical Engineering.
    Luchinskaya, Daria
    Competence Development and Employability Prospects: Using Non-traditional teaching Methods in a Changing Higher Education Environment2010In: European Conference on educational research: ECER 2010, 23-27 August, Helsinki, 2010, p. 451-Conference 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. 

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