Faculty of Engineering, School of Civil, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
Team members: Alan Champneys, Mark Gilbertson, Jeff Barrie, Joel Ross, Becky Selwyn, Mark Schenk, Dorian Jones, Matthew Peel, Lucy Berthoud, Sean Lancastle
“A huge amount of work was undertaken in a short space of time to consolidate teaching resources, and new ways of teaching were adopted – above and beyond other COVID-reactive measures. The outcome was a newly-robust set of teaching teams who have been backing one another up throughout this year, and lots of lessons to take forward to future years.”
“The lab kits and project work have been particularly effective at creating a highly interactive learning environment, where students gain first-hand experience of the real-life applications of the engineering theory being taught.”
“The interdisciplinary projects have enabled students to gain experience of valuable transferable skills…”
We asked the teams background and aims – Starting in September 2018, a team from the Civil Aerospace Mechanical Engineering School started a thorough review of their 1st year curricula. The aim was to develop a common core of teaching which would transition our students from diverse sets of backgrounds to a common baseline to enable them to excel in the remaining years of their course. The objectives of the review were to:
- 1. Improve the student experience – by incorporating innovative and best practices in teaching delivery, assessment and feedback, improving consistency and reducing assessment and duplication amongst subjects.
- 2. Improve organisation – by promoting team-based teaching in order to develop a more resilient teaching model and provide flexibility of teaching allowing for diverse delivery approaches.
- 3. Promote creative problem solving through exciting authentic projects – by encouraging multi-disciplinary working and increased awareness of core engineering topics, embedding skills and competencies and encouraging professional behaviour.
- 4. Improve transition for students from all backgrounds – by working towards a common skill set for success in later years, enabling student choice of the right programme for them and promoting measures to encourage diversity of students.
The outcome of the review was an agreed set of major changes to all undergraduate courses in the School to follow the same structure of one subject-specific and five common core units. The curriculum was designed using constructive alignment principles informed by significant student and staff input. The focus was on skills development, creativity, challenge-led projects and professional programmes. Assessment was rebalanced from mostly summative to mostly formative. We planned to run targeted pilots of some of the core content from September 2020, with full implementation in September 2021. However, the arrival of the global COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the rollout of the new curriculum. We agreed that the new approach had so many advantages for this challenging situation that its full introduction was brought forward to September 2020.
So, in a very short period of time, the team developed a coherent programme of study with mostly online delivery for around 600 students. This was possible through our unit teaching teams working effectively together and communicating well with each other and our students. It has been an enormous challenge and lots of hard work. However, through the experience gained and development of unexpected solutions, such as providing home lab kits for every student, we are now very well-placed to deliver an even more exciting and innovative first year for our students in the autumn 2021.
In addition to the nominated members, the team would like to thank Jitendra Agarwal and Jude Brampton, who both played key roles in the delivery of the first year.