A projected change to the Engineering curriculum, focusing on attainment of threshold concepts, led to the need for the first unit in the Engineering professional strand to be redeveloped as an exemplar of the new curriculum model.
Also needed were guidelines on developing or redeveloping engineering units to be consistent with the new curriculum approach.
The team undertook a comprehensive study of the new curriculum approach. This included the educational basis of a focus on threshold concepts – concepts that may be difficult for students to learn that transform the student’s ability once mastered – and several papers on the application of this idea to Engineering at Macquarie University written by academic staff. This ensured that the FPP team were able to make an educational contribution to the project that was consistent with the underlying theoretical approach.
ENGG100 Introduction to Engineering Practice was redeveloped to be an exemplar of a unit in accordance with the revised curriculum approach. This unit is a critical introduction to the engineering profession, aiming to develop skills such as investigation, report writing, laboratory skills and writing laboratory reports, project design and teamwork, data gathering and analysis, and critical reflection on their own development.
The threshold concept is ‘learning is self-directed’.
The unit was redeveloped into three modules, giving the students three opportunities to ‘get’ the idea that they are there to develop professional skills and that the unit is focussed on how they shape these for themselves. There is no content they can reproduce in an exam. Each module of four weeks has a focus on specific skills, one on laboratory skills and information and academic literacy, one on a team-based design project, and one, also team based, on iterative design, data gathering and analysis. The lecture and laboratory programs were restructured around the three modules. This was more of a restructure than a major change as many of the activities were refined from the previous version of the unit.
Guidelines for tutors were developed as they need to encourage students to be aware of and to reflect on the skills they are developing.
Finally a set of guidelines for academic staff were written to aid the design of new units or the redesign of existing ones in a way that is consistent with curriculum development based on threshold concepts in engineering.
This project was managed by Iain McAlpine, Educational Developer in the Learning and Teaching Centre.
The academic staff who initiated and made a major input to the project include Candace Lang, Daniel McGill and Tony Parker form the Department of Engineering.