Manufacturing excellent engineers: skill development in a Masters programme

Shawcross, Judith K.; Ridgman, Tom W.
December 2012
Engineering Education;Dec2012, Vol. 7 Issue 2, p38
Academic Journal
An MPhil programme, delivered by the Engineering Department at the University of Cambridge, claims to be excellent at preparing graduates for manufacturing industry careers. The course uses a combination of different educational experiences, including industry-based assignments, industrial visits and practical exercises. This research explores how problem solving skills are developed during the first module, Induction, which is designed to enable students to undertake their first industrial assignment. From the literature, four conditions necessary for skill development were identified: • Provision of a skill description, making explicit key components • A number of different experiences with a range of contextual variables • A teaching process which includes regular feedback and student reflection • Students motivated to learn. These were used to construct a skill development framework (SDF). Using a case study research design, multiple types of evidence were collected to test for the above conditions using both classroom observation and questionnaire methods. The results confirmed the presence of the SDF conditions at different levels, with reflection aspects considered the weakest. Conflicting results were obtained regarding the students' self-awareness of skill levels. A plausible explanation is a change in the students' frame of reference. This initial study set out to develop a better understanding of the process of skill development. Whilst the SDF appears reasonable, there is a need for further work in three broad areas of defining skills, assessing skills and developing reflection skills.


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