RESULTS OF A SURVEY ON GENERAL SKILLS OF AGRICULTURAL ENGINEERING STUDENTS
We are currently involved in the changes derived from the adaptation to the European Espace for Higher Education (EHEA). This does not only mean changing the structure of the Spanish higher education, but also a change towards optimized education and learning technologies. However, it is not clear how general skills should be organized within a degree. This is at least the case of Agricultural Engineering in the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), where there seems to exist a lack of coordination among the educational staff when addressing these general skills. This does not necessarily mean that students do not acquire these skills, but probably they do not do it in an effective way. Therefore, the main objective of this work was to describe the current situation of our students regarding some general skills, as a previous step to undertake the corresponding actions.
We conducted a survey to all students in two subjects of 3rd and 5th course of Agricultural Engineering. The survey had 17 questions: they were asked about their ability to use the English language, to work in group, to develop research, to conduct engineering projects, to make oral presentations and to search for scientific information. They were also asked for the degree of use of the most common computer programs. Finally, the students were asked for their intention to finish their studies: final project (PFC) or research work (TFC). The surveys were conducted the first day of class in each subject, at the beginning of the second semester of the course 2010-2011, in the subjects “Technology of animal production” (3rd course) and “Livestock and Environment” (5th course). The answers were rated according to the Likert scale.
A total of 97 students answered the survey (84 in 3rd course and 13 in 5th course). The main findings of our survey are presented here. Some unexpected results were found, for example that the average use of English was intermediate but did not differ between both courses. Also, the overall feeling of students was very similar for general competences such as: preparing research works, conducting engineering projects, searching scientific information, working in groups and computer skills. Students from 5th course were more confident when preparing oral presentations, probably because they indicate that they have performed ten or more presentations in previous courses. However, they agree that they have had no formation about how preparing oral presentations. Finally, there is a change in the intentions of students to finish their studies: in 3rd course there are more undecided students and the most preferred option is PFC. However, in 5th course the preferred option is clearly TFC (62%) against PFC (15%).
As a conclusion, the information obtained from student’s surveys may be extremely useful to understand the degree of learning of general skills. More efforts should be made to further explore student’s perception of their learning in other courses. This may be necessary to effectively organizing student’s learning of general skills in higher education.