STUDENT-CENTRED LEARNING IN LEARNING OUTCOMES BASED CURRICULA
In 2011, the National Qualifications Framework for higher education (NQF-HE), compatible with the overarching framework for the European Higher Education Area, was introduced in Poland by means of an amendment to the Law on Higher Education.
To adhere to the new Law, for each of ca. 150 degree programmes offered by the Warsaw University of Technology (WUT), learning outcomes (LOs) were defined so that to comply with the generic LOs for engineering, specified in the ministerial regulation. Then, the curricula were designed so that each student who completes the programme achieves these LOs. Appropriate methods for verification of these LOs were also devised and implemented.
The resulting LO-oriented curricula, developed in most cases in cooperation with external stakeholders (employers), put more emphasis on non-technical (economic, legal, ethical, environmental, societal) aspects of engineering and the development of soft skills and entrepreneurial attitude of students.
The implementation of the NQF-HE requirements in 2011-2012 had to be performed quite quickly. This left very limited opportunities to make significant changes in teaching methods and techniques. Now, the time has come to focus on these issues, in particular on the implementation of the concept of student-centred learning.
A shift to teaching methods which more actively involve students and require interdisciplinary approach and entrepreneurship, such as Project-Based Learning (PBL) or Design Thinking (DT), has been observed at many faculties. To support this trend and to emphasise the significance of business-university cooperation in education, facilities that support innovative approach to teaching and learning have been located in a newly constructed building that hosts a recently established WUT organisational unit – Innovation Management and Technology Transfer Centre.
Also, to coordinate the development, introduction and dissemination of innovations in teaching, a special advisor to the WUT Rector has been appointed. One of her key responsibilities is to encourage external stakeholders to get involved in teaching, i.e. to submit real-life projects to be creatively solved by the students and to support students in the development of their innovative ideas.
An example of new developments in student-centred learning, exploiting the ideas of PBL and DT, conceived also to break barriers between faculties, is a pilot module called Creative Semester Project. This module is intended for 30 students from different faculties, organised into 5 design teams that solve practical interdisciplinary problems. It includes introductory lectures, but the focus is on design, in particular on good teamwork, as the ability to cooperate effectively is - according to the opinion of employers – the key competence our graduates are generally missing. The grading is based on an assessment of students’ creativity, technical contribution and ability to work in a team (by themselves, by their teammates and by their tutor), assessment of the final report and public presentation of the project outcomes (by the tutor, by the reviewer and by the other tutors).
Based on a positive experience and feedback received from the participants, in near future such an interdisciplinary design project will become an obligatory part of curriculum for all first-cycle students, whereas second-cycle students will deal with more complex real-world problems submitted by business and social partners of WUT.