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Faculty Approaches to Working Life Issues in Engineering Curricula

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Engineering Faculty: Interactions, Influences and Issues

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.594.1 - 24.594.13



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Paper Authors


Marie H. Magnell KTH Royal Institute of Technology

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PhD student in Engineering Education at KTH, Department of Learning. Research interests include work related learning, faculty approaches to work related issues in engineering education and professional identity development.

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Lars Allan Geschwind KTH Royal Institute of Technology


Lena B. Gumaelius KTH, Department of Learning Orcid 16x16

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Head of Deparment of Learning, ECE school, KTH
PhD in Biotechnology 2001
Engineering degree in Chemistry 1994

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Anette Jepsen Kolmos Aalborg University

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Anette Kolmos is Professor in Engineering Education and PBL and Chairholder for UNESCO in Problem Based Learning in Engineering Education, Aalborg University, Denmark. Guest professor at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Guest Professor at UTM University Technology Malaysia 2011-2013. President of SEFI 2009–2011 (European Society for Engineering Education). Founding Chair of the SEFI-working group on Engineering Education Research. During the last 20 years, Dr. Kolmos has researched the following areas, primarily within Engineering Education: development and evaluation of project based and problem based curriculum, change from traditional to project organized and problem based curriculum, development of transferable skills in PBL and project work, and methods for staff development. She is Associate Editor for the European Journal of Engineering Education and was Associated Editor for Journal of Engineering Education (ASEE). Involved in supervision of 13 PhD projects and published around 200 publications. Member of several organizations and committees within EER, national government bodies, and committees in the EU.

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Faculty Approach to Working Life Issues (Research Paper)BackgroundWithin engineering education, the debate regarding to what extent students should beprepared for the future occupation has been present ever since the emergence in the 19thcentury. The controversy regards having a practice based orientation or having a moretheoretical focus (Jorgensen 2007). Several approaches such as CDIO have been initiated toput more emphasis on the skills students’ need to be able to work as engineers (Crawley et al2007). However, there are studies for instance from the university described in this paper, ahighly ranked technical university in Europe, as well as other studies (e.g. Walther et al 2011)pointing at the shortage of connections to the world of work.AimThe aim of the paper is to study the faculty’s approach to working life outside academia. Thepaper is a report from a study on faculty awareness of working life issues with the long-termgoal to identify ways of increasing the connection to working life in engineering education.The research questions are: Which attitudes do faculty members have to working life issues?Which activities related to working life are conducted by the faculty?MethodologyA mixed methods approach with a sequential design was conducted (Creswell 2009). Aquestionnaire was sent to the faculty, totally 1430 recipients. The response rate was 35%. Toexamine some questions in depth, we conducted case studies in three engineeringprogrammes, two with a large extent of connections to working life and one with less.Twelve interviews were conducted. The results of the questionnaire were analyzed in SPSSand NVivo was used to perform a thematic analysis of the interviews.FindingsThe results indicate that 57% of faculty members are interested or very interested in includingwork related issues in their teaching, while 11% have no or very little interest.The results also show that faculty members rate the following knowledge, competence andskills in the engineering profession as most important: critical thinking, problem solving andfinding new solutions. Business, leadership and entrepreneurship skills, on the other hand, arerated as less important.In the engineering program with less connection to working life, faculty members seem tohave few contacts, mainly in small businesses, and offer primarily guest lectures, while thosewith a large extent of connections seem to have more contacts with larger companies andoffer more integrated activities e.g. projects that originate from industry.Conclusions and significanceThe findings show ambivalence for faculty – on the one side they would like to integratework experiences but on the other side they find business and leadership less importantcompared to traditional academic values.The question of faculty members’ attitudes and activities related to working life is animportant factor in engineering education if we want to ensure that students are well preparedfor their professional career. This paper contributes to a more nuanced understanding of howto integrate contacts to working life in engineering education as well as for obstacles andopportunities involved.

Magnell, M. H., & Geschwind, L. A., & Gumaelius, L. B., & Kolmos, A. J. (2014, June), Faculty Approaches to Working Life Issues in Engineering Curricula Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20485

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