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Formal Learning Within A Community Of Practice

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.570.1 - 7.570.9



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David Radcliffe

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Session 2793

Formal Learning within a Community of Practice

David Radcliffe School of Engineering The University of Queensland Australia

Abstract The Undergraduate Site Learning Program (USLP) has pioneered the integration of technical skills and broader generic attributes in engineering graduates. With site learning, the students spend 12 weeks on-site and simultaneously engage in the same syllabus as their peers who are on-campus. The USLP benefits all stakeholders – the students (both on-campus and on-site), the staff at the placement sites and the academics at UQ. Commencing in 2000, the USLP has made 36 placements, at 21 sites (including 2 international sites) in 12 organizations and across 7 engineering disciplines. The success of this program lies with the alignment of learning objectives to work tasks.

Motivation During the 1990s there was a sustained global debate about the nature of engineering education, the most significant review since the engineering science revolution transformed engineering education in the 1950's and 1960's. In the US, the outcome was a restructuring of the accreditation process for undergraduate programs. The resultant ABET 2000 criteria have caused a fundamental shift to focus accreditation on the graduate outcomes. A parallel process occurred in Australia from 1995-96 through the national Review of Engineering Education. This review was initiated by the Australian Council of Engineering Deans, the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and the Institution of Engineers, Australia (the accrediting body) and funded by DETYA. The resultant report entitled Changing the Culture (IE Aust, 1996) lead to a change in the accreditation of Australian engineering programs. The focus is now more on outcomes with a particular emphasis on the demonstration of broader graduate attributes. Engineering programs are now being accredited against this new standard.

In parallel the minerals industry has been concerned with the state of education for the professionals in their sector. Back from the Brink (MCA, 1998), a report from the Minerals Council of Australia, observed that "graduates often have a poor understanding of how their theoretical knowledge can be applied in practice" and that "they also tend to be unaware of the importance of communication and ‘people skills’, how business decisions are made, occupational health and safety, demands of life in (often remote) operational settings and other significant issues facing industry". A report in May, 2001 by the Australian Institute of Minerals and Metallurgy, entitled Rising to the challenge, suggests that there is still much to be done to improve the education of professionals in the minerals sector. Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ã 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Radcliffe, D. (2002, June), Formal Learning Within A Community Of Practice Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11157

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