This is a first year, first semester unit and the students have their entire undergraduate studies in front of them. Emphasis is placed on skills and knowledge that will be useful for university study, with less emphasis on discipline and practice skills and knowledge. There is a portfolio of assessment types including developing basic competencies with university systems, foundation skills such as information literacy and investigation, some tests of discipline knowledge, and some generic practice skills such as written and oral communication. There is an exam with a ‘must pass’ hurdle requirement, but it does not dominate the assessment. There are a relatively large number of smaller assessment tasks, the aim being student engagement with the course content across the semester, starting small and simple, and building up in size. Continuous assessment starting early in the semester has the benefit of quickly identifying those student falling behind and perhaps at risk, so remedial action can be taken.
The majority of assessable items in this unit are submitted on-line via the TopClass course management system. To build student familiarity with the system and to ensure that any problems are flushed out early in the semester, assignment 1 is a minor exercise, requiring students to get on-line in the first two weeks of semester, access the TopClass system and to introduce themselves in an on-line discussion forum.
Assignment 3 involves students attending a Library familiarisation session where information resources related to engineering and technology are presented. To encourage student attendance the Library has developed an exercise to test students on the resources and search strategies presented, and the completed exercise is submitted and marked as Assignment 3. Attaching marks to this exercise means that most students will complete this important foundation skill building activity.
Assignment 4 looks to build upon and extend the skills developed in Assignment 3, and tie in with related class material addressing written communication, plagiarism, etc. Students use the Library to locate and produce formatted references for a number of each of the following information sources – textbooks, journal papers, conference papers and web sites. After this assignment students should be familiar with a range of information sources and be able to cite and reference them in their work appropriately.
Normally, Assignment 2 would appear next in the assessment sequence, to exercise the skills developed in assessment tasks completed so far and to tie in with class work dealing with professional practice and ethics. Students have to locate a published case study relating to the failure of technology and assess the ethics of the parties involved. The work submitted is a small written report professionally presented with appropriate graphics and referencing. Students may work in groups of up to three, with the word limit increasing in proportion to the number of team members. This year, the Library was unable to take the students for their familiarisation exercise until later in the semester than normal, hence a pragmatic re-arrangement of the class and assessment sequence was required. The ethics report had to come before Assignment 3 and 4, necessitating some early presentation of information literacy and referencing material prior to Assignment 2, and a consequent allowance in the assessment of Assignment 2 for the lesser level of preparation of students in these areas.
Assignments 5 and 6 are similar, being multiple-choice tests completed on-line in the TopClass environment. The questions relate to the course material being studied at the time, and form a mini-bracket of continuous assessment for a two-week period, one test being completed each week. The multiple-choice format is used to vary the assessment style in the unit, and to reduce the overall marking effort required, as both tests are automatically marked by the TopClass system.
The final major assignment for the semester seeks to integrate and further exercise the skills and knowledge gained throughout the semester, in the context of a real-world case study. Students, working in groups of up to three, identify and investigate a real organisation via published literature and/or visit to interview a manager. In a written report they document and analyse the organisation’s approach to a number of technology management issues studied across the semester. Based on this work the group then prepares and delivers a 10 minute oral presentation to the class that describes their findings.
|Assignment 1||Reflective journal||10|
|Assignment 2||Technological forecasting and assessment||10|
|Assignment 3||Policy design in engineering organisations||10|
|Assignment 4||Major report||20|
This is a final year, final semester unit and the next stop for many students is professional practice. At this stage, the students have developed maturity and an intrinsic interest in and motivation for the course material. Emphasis is now placed on discipline and practice skills and knowledge, and advanced conceptual topics, with less emphasis on other types of skills. There is less diversity in assessment types and there are a smaller number of more significant assessment tasks, with a focus on practising professional skills in the context of discipline area case studies. There is an exam with a ‘must pass’ hurdle requirement.
Reflective thinking based on experiential learning is a key skill required for the lifelong learner and the socially mature engineering professional (Schön, 1995). Assignment 1 aims to develop skills in critical reflection on action, and is completed across the semester by asking students to reflect weekly in short written form on what they learned and of what value it might be in the future. At the end of the semester students are asked to prepare a reflective report that identifies: the important things learned in the unit, insights they have gained into the way(s) they learn, and suggestions for improving the unit (this final point not only requires students to reflect critically, but also provides additional feedback on the unit and its assessment).
Assignment 2 requires students, working in groups of three, to locate a published case study relating to the issues currently being studied in class. In a written report they document and analyse the organisations approaches to the issues. Based on this work the group then prepares and delivers a 15 minute oral presentation to the class that describes their findings. The topic for Assignment 2 is technological forecasting. Assignment 3 has identical requirements to Assignment 2, except that the topic is policy design.
The final major assignment for the semester seeks to integrate and further exercise the skills and knowledge gained throughout the semester (and across the entire management stream of study), in the context of a real-world case study. Students, working in groups of up to three, identify and investigate a real organisation via a visit to interview an engineering manager. In a written report they document and analyse the organisations approach to the range of the technology management issues studied across the semester, comparing and contrasting the approaches of the organisation to those studied in class. Based on this work the group then prepares and delivers a 20 minute oral presentation to the class that describes their findings.
In actual engineering practice, graduates will be assessed on their performance as an individual, but also on their effectiveness in working in teams. Assignments 2, 3 and 4 involve group work, and while individual contributions to the class presentations can be assessed, it is difficult to assess individual contributions to a group written report. The groups are given the opportunity to indicate the relative contribution of each group member to each assignment by completing a ‘group work declaration’ with every group submission. Here the groups may state the percentage of the work contributed by each member. The group must agree on the proportions stated and all group members must sign the declaration. In practice, very few groups elect to report other than equal contributions.
Babcock, D. (1996). Managing Engineering and Technology
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Institution of Engineers Australia. (1997). Manual for the Accreditation of Professional Engineering Courses. Canberra, Australia: The Institution of Engineers, Australia.
Kinsky, R. (1994). Engineering Management. South Melbourne, Victoria: Thomas Nelson Australia.
Lloyd, B., Baker, L., & Briggs, H. (1996). Off-campus Articulated Education in Engineering at Deakin University for Mature Students. Paper presented at the 8th Annual Convention and Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education, Sydney.
Schön, D. A. (1995). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. Aldershot, England: Arena.
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