June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.134.1 - 15.134.12
Alumni Perceptions of Project Management Instruction
After teaching a project-oriented capstone course several semesters, the author observed some teams failed to provide quality solutions for their semester-long, team-based project. The root cause appeared to be poor project management skills. This prompted the author to consider asking alumni, who have demonstrated success leading teams in their careers, what skills they believed were needed to be successful project managers and how they believe project management can be better taught in the university setting.
A population of 34 alumni answered a series of multiple choice and short answer questions through an on-line survey in which the feedback was anonymous to promote candid responses. An online instrument was used to facilitate easy access for participants and automated data retrieval. The work experience of the alumni varied from 16 months to eight years. Their current employment roles varied from junior level engineers to vice president of engineering with a majority serving in some supervisory role.
The survey asked the volunteers to indicate with a Likert scale how well they agreed with the definitions of key project management skills as outlined in the survey instrument. In addition, the volunteers were asked their opinions about how the skill of project management can best be taught and if teamwork skills are the same as project management skills. Finally, volunteers could type out their suggestions for how project management could be better taught in an academic setting.
A significant majority agreed that teamwork skills are essential to success in their job and that they had adequate training on teamwork skills while in college. However, most believed teamwork and project management are not the same skill. An important finding from the study is what the alumni thought about the instruction of project management skills. They believe such skills can be taught in a classroom situation and that the reading of case studies can be somewhat helpful to learn basic concepts. However, they believe the act of managing a project was the best way to learn the skills. In fact, several alumni said that only the team leader of a project is the one learning project management; that the other members are team players, not managers. Consequently, a capstone class, structured as a single project-oriented course, may only be teaching project management to the subset of students who are designated team leaders. A better pedagogy to teach students the essentials of project management, which includes leadership and the accepting of accountability, may be to have smaller scale projects that allow more students to lead the project teams while significant goals are achieved.
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