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Developing engineering curricula and teaching

Page history last edited by Roger Hadgraft 5 years, 9 months ago

This is a hand-selected set of resources that should help any engineering academic, whether beginner or experienced, to think differently about their curricula, for the purpose of changing the way they do their teaching and students do their learning.


Suggestions for additions are welcome in the comments section at the bottom of the page; these will be integrated into this page. Otherwise, email the page owner.


What needs to change in engineering programs?


Many international reviews over the last 20 years have pointed towards the need for engineering programs that are a better balance of theory and practice. Some of these reports are:

  1. Sheppard, S. D., K. Macatangay, A. Colby and W. M. Sullivan (2008). Educating Engineers: Designing for the Future of the Field. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.
  2. National Academy of Engineering. (2004). "The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century."   Retrieved 17 Jan 2007, from http://books.nap.edu/catalog/10999.html. 
  3. National Academy of Engineering. (2005). "Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century." Retrieved 29 April 2017, from https://www.nap.edu/read/11338/.
  4. King, R. (2008). "Addressing the Supply and Quality of Engineering Graduates for the New Century."   Retrieved 19 June 2012, from http://www.olt.gov.au/resource-addressing-supply-quality-engineering-graduates-uts-2008.
  5. Spinks, N., N. Silburn and D. Birchall. (2006). "Educating Engineers in the 21st Century: The Industry View." from http://www.raeng.org.uk/news/releases/henley/pdf/henley_report.pdf.
  6. Beanland, D. and R. Hadgraft (2014). Engineering Education: Transformation and Innovation. Melbourne, RMIT Publishing.


What is the nature of engineering practice?


Read James Trevelyan's excellent book, which summarises 15 years of research on engineering practice:

  • Trevelyan, J. (2014). The Making of an Expert Engineer. London, Taylor & Francis.


See also your national accreditation guidelines, e.g. 


Some other useful references:

  1. Cameron, I. and R. Hadgraft (2010). Engineering and ICT Learning and Teaching Academic Standards Statement. Learning and Teaching Academic Standards Project. Sydney, Australian Learning and Teaching Council.
  2. Dowling, D., R. G. Hadgraft, A. Carew, T. McCarthy, D. J. Hargreaves and C. Baillie (2016). Engineering Your Future: an Australasian guide. Brisbane, John Wiley.


How to define your own program learning outcomes?


Ask your industry friends one simple question: what do graduates DO in your company? See the following reference and the Environmental Engineering example to understand the methodology.


Curriculum architectures 


An engineering practice spine should be included, beginning in year 1. The best known example is Aalborg University in Denmark, with 50% of each semester devoted to project-based learning. This model has been copied in other universities. A couple of useful references are:

  1. de Graaff, E. and A. Kolmos, Eds. (2007). Management of Change: Implementation of Problem-Based and Project-Based Learning in Engineering. Rotterdam, Sense Publishers.
  2. Kolmos, A., F. Fink and L. Krogh, Eds. (2004). The Aalborg PBL Model: Progress, Diversity & Challenges, Aalborg Univ. Press.


A 25% model is also common, where one out of 4 subjects in a semester are project/design-based. This has now been implemented in several places.

  1. Crosthwaite, C. A., I. T. Cameron and P. A. Lant (2001). Curriculum Design for Chemical Engineering Graduate Attributes. World Congress of Chemical Engineering. D. G. Wood. Melbourne.
  2. Hadgraft, R., M. Xie and N. Angeles (2004). Civil and Infrastructure Engineering for Sustainability. 2004 ASEE annual conference. Salt Lake City, ASEE.


Writing good learning outcomes


  1. Guidelines on writing learning outcomes, University of Melbourne, http://about.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/773946/Guidelines_on_writing_learning_outcomes.pdf
  2. List of Measurable Verbs Used to Assess Learning Outcomes, Clinton Community College, NY, USA, https://www.clinton.edu/curriculumcommittee/listofmeasurableverbs.cxml 


Why active learning?


A strong recommendation from most reviews of engineering education is that there is too much passive learning of theory and not enough active learning of engineering practice. This paper is an excellent review of the role of inductive learning in engineering:


  • Prince, M. J. and R. M. Felder (2006). "Inductive Teaching and Learning Methods: Definitions, Comparisons, and Research Bases." Journal of Engineering Education 95(2): 123-138.


Supporting active learning in the classroom


  1. Guides for learning and teaching (from UNSW) 
  2. Reidsema, C., L. Kavanagh, R. Hadgraft and N. Smith, Eds. (2017). The Flipped Classroom: Practice and Practices in Higher Education. Singapore, Springer.


Resources for students



Feedback and Assessment - are the students learning?


Evaluation - are the outcomes being achieved? 


Technical Outcomes


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