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For many years engineering programmes have placed a stronger emphasis on the development of technical knowledge, understanding and skills at the expense of personal skills such as initiative, creativity, communication, teamwork and lifelong self-directed learning. Recent changes in accreditation criteria call for greater competences in these skills to be achieved in the undergraduate programme. An argument is presented that this requires a change from the traditional approach to engineering education to a group-based project driven one as this is compatible with concurrent development of both technical and non-technical learning outcomes. Just as a clear path of progression exists from the fundamentals of science in stage one to the advanced engineering content in the final year so too should personal skills be developed in a progressive structured way. This paper presents a strategy that is currently being developed and implemented in the School of Electrical Engineering Systems in the Dublin Institute of Technology in a four year Bachelor of Engineering programme. In the group-based project-driven approach students practice communication and team work skills not in isolation to but integrated with the programme’s technical content. The early stages of the programme focus on strongly developing the group learning process and introducing students to a reflective practice so they can observe and improve performance. Tutor observation fades in later years as students become more adept at managing group work and self-directed learning. This strategy is designed to progressively change a dependent freshman student into an independent graduate who is prepared for the challenges ahead.
Duffy, G. & Bowe, B. (2010). A strategy for the development of lifelong learning and personal skills throughout an undergraduate engineering programme. IEEE conference Transforming Engineering Education: Creating Interdisciplinary Skills for Complex Global Environments., 6-9 April, Dublin, Ireland. doi:10.1109/TEE.2010.5508842
Science Foundation Ireland Learning Teaching Technology Centre