DEFINITION OF THE EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES OF FINAL YEAR PROJECTS
Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Conference name: 3rd International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 9-11 March, 2009
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Project-based learning is nowadays widely accepted as an appropriate didactic methodology for developing generic and specific skills in an integrated fashion. Moreover, the intrinsic dynamics of a project often bring to the students an additional motivation that impels them towards acquiring either broader or deeper knowledge of their subjects. In engineering education, the relevance of project-based learning has been recognised for a long time, due to its close relationship with the professional activities of engineers. For this reason, university courses on engineering have traditionally ended with the students carrying out a personal pre-graduation project, usually named “final year project”.
The current convergence process in the structures of European high education systems is being accompanied, in parallel, by a redesign of many educational programmes. Such redesign includes the definition of the learning outcomes of each course in terms of skills or competences. Most significantly, it is being highlighted that each course should not only contribute to the students developing skills that are specific to the subject of that course, but they should also develop skills that characterise them as university graduates, no matter on which subject. In fact, in authors’ view, convergence in generic skills and not convergence in course structures should be the core of the building process of the European Higher Education Area.
In this context, the inclusion of learning strategies, such as project-based learning, in university courses that allow integrating the development and evaluation of both generic and specific skills is acquiring an increasing relevance. Again, the specifics of technology and engineering make project-based learning of distinct importance in this field and they also make it necessary to care particularly for the pedagogical design and implementation of final year projects. Nevertheless, independently of the technical quality of their contents, final year projects in many universities are not well structured form the pedagogical point of view.
With this situation in mind, within this paper the authors report on an effort to define the expected learning outcomes of final year projects in engineering graduation studies. While these outcomes are both specific and generic, special attention has been given to generic skills, hence defining a framework that should be useful in different engineering fields. This work has a twofold aim: on the one hand it can serve both students and lecturers to share expectancies on the educational aspects of the project and, on the other hand, it is intended to be useful also as a basis for a later definition of the project evaluation process and criteria.
The reported definition process of educational objectives of the final year project has followed a top-down approach. Within this approach, learning outcomes have been structured in four levels of detail: classes of competences, competences, learning objectives and project achievements.
Keywords: project-based learning, generic competences.