Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Educational Research and Methods
This research paper describes a study that investigates a recent process of curriculum reform in an undergraduate engineering program. Curriculum continues to hold a prominent space in discussions around engineering education, yet there are limited exemplars of full scale curriculum reform around the globe (Case, 2014). At the University of Cape Town in South Africa, the design of the new chemical engineering curriculum drew on contemporary shifts in thinking about the engineering profession (Gomes et al., 2006; IChemE, 2007), as well as a focus on widening access to the degree and coupling this with success (Heydenrych & Case, 2015). Furthermore, engaging with current deliberations on the problem-based curriculum, this design took on a problem-centred focus (Crosthwaite, Cameron, Lant, & Litster, 2006). This curriculum design demanded a far more integrated mode of course delivery than is typical in a traditional engineering curriculum. The overall process from initial deliberations through to implementation took place over nearly a decade, and the first graduating class (approximately 100 graduates) is in 2017.
The study to be reported in this paper on took place during the year in which the final year of the new curriculum for the four year program was implemented. Both faculty involved in delivering the new curriculum, and final year students who had been the first cohort through the curriculum were surveyed in an open-ended questionnaire. Analysis of the data uses standard qualitative techniques to identify prominent themes as reflected in the perceptions of these different stakeholders. The study aims to move beyond a simplistic assessment of the reform to take a close look at perceptions of the reformed curriculum, in order to offer critical insights to the field. We were particularly interested in exploring challenges experienced during the process of change, both for faculty and for students. In conclusion we suggest that in order to move beyond the rhetorical discussions of curriculum, the field of engineering education will need to take close account of the implications of curriculum reform, both in terms of positive developments, but also accounting for challenges in systems that are already stressed in terms of resources.
Case, J. M. (2014). Problematizing curriculum: Contemporary debates in engineering education. In M. Young & J. Muller (Eds.), Knowledge, expertise and the professions (pp. 143-156): Routledge. Crosthwaite, C., Cameron, I., Lant, P., & Litster, J. (2006). Balancing Curriculum Processes and Content in a Project Centred Curriculum In Pursuit of Graduate Attributes. Education for Chemical Engineers, 1(1), 39-48. Gomes, V., Barton, G., Petrie, J., Romagnoli, J., Holt, P., Abbas, A., . . . Langrish, T. (2006). Chemical engineering curriculum renewal. Education for Chemical Engineers, 1(1), 116-125. Heydenrych, H., & Case, J. M. (2015). Academic development in the mainstream: A case study in an undergraduate engineering programme in South Africa. South African Journal of Higher Education, 29(5), 179-200. IChemE. (2007). A Roadmap for 21st Century Chemical Engineering. Retrieved from http://www.icheme.org/roadmap2007.pdf
Heydenrych, H., & Case, J. M. (2018, June), Faculty and Student Experiences of Curriculum Reform: A Case Study of the Chemical Engineering Program at the University of Cape Town Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30508
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