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Can We Bolt It On? Developing Students' Transferable Skills in Chemical Engineering

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Work in Progress Postcard Session

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First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


James Campbell Imperial College London Orcid 16x16

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Currently a Teaching fellow at Imperial College London, Chemical Engineering Department

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Deesha Chadha Imperial College London

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I currently work as a senior teaching fellow in the department of chemical engineering at Imperial College London having previously worked in academic development for a number of years at King's College London

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In this Work in Progress paper we present the current work we are doing in the department of chemical engineering, at a research-intensive higher education institution to consciously address the development of teamwork skills through a one-day introductory programme for first years through a bolted-on approach* to development (Chadha and Nicholls 2006).

"You can’t run a process plant by yourself". This simple quote from our head of department perfectly sums up the value of team-working skills for chemical engineering students. Yet in spite of recognising their importance, as educators, we sometimes allow our students to pick up these skills unintendedly through group projects rather than through deliberate awareness and development (Seat et al. 2001; Grant and Dickson 2006).

Our objectives for running this course are three-fold. Firstly, we wish to introduce students to a way of working that is important for their professional development, secondly the development of transferable skills is highly valued by the accreditation body – being the Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE 2017), and thirdly we want to introduce students to a culture of collaboration in which they feel supported, both by their peers and staff. To this end particular aspects of course design were considered vital to its success: diverse teams, introducing students to conceptual ideas around team-working, building up the complexity of tasks, facilitated review, piloting the approach and ensuring that students directly apply their learning to a technical group-based project.

As we are keen to embed this course into our curriculum, it is important for us to establish how students engage with this opportunity and what they take forward. We have designed a questionnaire, using the Likert Scale (Norman 2010) through which we are able to review students’ immediate learning; the responses (class size approx. 140) will be analysed and presented at this conference. The questionnaire directly covers students’ perceptions on what teamwork is and how the tasks they undertake impact upon that understanding, additionally exploring how the group dynamics affect their development. The responses from students will enable us to develop the course further and establish whether a bolt-on approach is the most suitable for developing team-working skills in chemical engineering students.

*Transferable skills are developed independently of the core discipline


Chadha D. and Nicholls G. (2006), Teaching transferable skills to undergraduate engineering students: recognising the value of embedded and bolt-on approaches, International Journal of Engineering Education, 22(1): 116-122

Grant C.D. and Dickson B.R. (2006), Personal skills in chemical engineering graduates: the development of skills within degree programmes to meet the needs of employers, Education for Chemical Engineers, 1: 23-29

Institute of Chemical Engineers, (2017),

Norman, G. (2010), Likert scales, levels of measurement and the ‘laws’ of statistics, Advances in Health Science Education, 15(5): 625-632

Seat E., Parsons J.R. and Poppen W.A. (2001), Enabling engineering performance skills: a program to teach communication, leadership and teamwork, Journal of Engineering Education, 90(1): 7-12

Campbell, J., & Chadha, D. (2019, June), Can We Bolt It On? Developing Students' Transferable Skills in Chemical Engineering Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32494

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