Explicitly teaching teamwork and written communication within a problem based curriculum: development of a generalised framework

Holmes, David, and Lasen, Michelle (2017) Explicitly teaching teamwork and written communication within a problem based curriculum: development of a generalised framework. In: Proceedings of the 28th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education. pp. 448-455. From: 287th AAEE Conference 2017: Integrated Engineering, 10-13 December 2017, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

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CONTEXT Recent years have seen the growing importance of employability skills for engineering graduate success. Beyond disciplinary specific capabilities, employers increasingly expect graduates to be proficient in skills that are transferrable across employment contexts; specifically, “the ability to communicate, collaborate and operate effectively within an industry environment” (Deloitte Access Economics, 2014, p. 3). However, there are concerns that current undergraduate programs, both in Australia and internationally, are producing graduates without the requisite proficiency in employability skills to flourish in their profession. According to the European Commission (2015), “the successful development of [employability] skills requires an education system capable of preparing students through more active and problem-based learning approaches, using assignments from the ‘real world’ and including support for risk taking and creativity” (p. 4). Nonetheless, within a problem based curriculum, skills development must be explicit. In particular, teamwork skills are “not likely to emerge spontaneously” (Hughes and Jones, 2011, p. 60). Effective implementation of explicit skills development within a problem based learning environment (PBL) remains an open research question.

PURPOSE This paper reports on the development of a generalised pedagogical framework for explicitly scaffolding written communication and teamwork skills within a PBL curriculum.

APPROACH Over several years, employability skills development within an Australian mechanical engineering degree program was evaluated using curriculum mapping, student performance, and staff and student feedback. This evaluation reviewed employability skills needs of graduates, and investigated why such skills were being underdeveloped within the curriculum, despite widespread application in learning and assessment tasks. Evaluation findings informed the development of a pedagogical framework, designed to explicitly address the employability skills shortfall within a PBL curriculum.

RESULTS The study highlighted that the development of written communication and teamwork skills were largely assumed within the engineering degree program. Learning modules or experiences devoted to developing these skills were either rare (as with written communication) or largely absent (as with teamwork). Additionally, many large projects utilising these skills comprised a single, culminating assessment task, without opportunity for students to reflect on skills development or apply instructor feedback from one task to the next. Hence, a PBL subject structure was developed, integrating explicit instruction on written communication and teamwork, and allowing scaffolded reflection and performance enhancement within a single teaching period to assure learning.

CONCLUSION The PBL framework intentionally scaffolds written communication and teamwork skills within a single subject, making possible accelerated and contextualised employability skills development. This framework has applicability across subjects, year levels and disciplinary contexts.

Item ID: 51388
Item Type: Conference Item (Research - E1)
ISBN: 978-0-646-98026-3
Keywords: PBL; teamwork; written communication; employability skills; pedagogical framework
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This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2018 01:09
FoR Codes: 39 EDUCATION > 3901 Curriculum and pedagogy > 390199 Curriculum and pedagogy not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9302 Teaching and Instruction > 930201 Pedagogy @ 100%
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