Khoo, E. G. L., Scott, J. B., McKie, D., & Cowie, B. (2018). Fostering project management competencies in undergraduate engineering: An exploration of the use of management- educated tutors as coaches in problem-based learning. In Proceedings of AAEE2018. Hamilton, New Zealand.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12350
CONTEXT Problem-based learning (PBL) helps engineering graduates develop the competencies needed in order to engage effectively with complex and uncertain workplace demands. PBL’s effectiveness, however, also depends on students having the ability to manage themselves and to work collaboratively. As these professional competencies are not typically the focus of undergraduate engineering programmes, students tend to complete problem-based project work through their own initiatives without the skills relevant to project completion. On the other hand, project management competencies are commonly explicated and core in business and management disciplines. PURPOSE This paper reports on our project which addresses the research question: What is the impact of utilising a management-educated demonstrator to work with engineering students on their learning and development of project management competencies? APPROACH Our project intervention required students in a fourth-year advanced engineering problem-based course to regularly report their planning and project progress to a graduate management tutor (demonstrator manager). A third of the course marks was awarded by the tutor who provided business-informed coaching as feedback during each report planning session. Multiple forms of data were collected – pre-and post-course surveys, student focus group interviews, lecturer and tutor interviews and student formative and summative grades. RESULTS The findings highlighted that: (1) Students did gain a better understanding of key aspects of project management; (2) Students were generally supportive of the technique, but wanted more “introduction”, exposing their naivete where grading on management was concerned; (3) The approach could foster more Engineering-Management collaboration at a university; (4) The approach supports the accreditation goal of developing engineering graduates’ professional competencies related to management skills. CONCLUSIONS Given the multiple and complex challenges facing 21st-century society, engineering employers are increasingly seeking graduates who are both technical experts in their field and able to work with experts from other fields, including business and management. Our project contributes understandings on how interdisciplinary initiatives can develop such professional competencies that are important for engineering graduate work-readiness.
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