1 Constructive alignment (CA) for Degree projects intended learning outcomes, teaching & assessment - or will CA for Degree projects lead to better quality? Johan Malmqvist Chalmers University of Technology Gothenburg, SWEDEN
2 Background Degree projects (DP) are currently heavily focused in Sweden: DP s are assigned responsibility for development of professional skills within programmes in order to meet programme-level goals Future quality system will focus on quality of theses Lacking agreement on what constitutes a good thesis, good teaching in degree projects, intended learning outcomes Constructive alignment (CA) is being applied as a general approach for improving the quality of a course Eg Chalmers has started project to assure that all of our courses are constructively aligned Potentially, CA might contribute to improving the quality of degree projects
3 Outline Background & research questions A few general comments on degree projects & constructive alignment Intended learning outcomes challenges & approaches, exemplified by Chalmers goals Teaching activities Assessment Discussion
4 Research questions Is CA applicable for degree projects? Can the aha experience of working with CA for your own course be experienced by Degree project examiners/teachers? Can CA for thesis projects contribute to higher quality? How? Why/why not?
5 Degree projects - general Independent work, sometimes done in groups of 2 15/30/60 ECTS Similar in some ways to project courses but with more task variation and more required independence A significantly larger and more complex task than the students has addressed earlier in the education
6 Degree projects might also be viewed as A large exam nothing (?) new is taught A vehicle for deepening knowledge as well as developing professional skills An internship or even a test employment Cheap consultant hours An opportunity to write and publish a research paper so that you get accepted into a PhD programme
7 Constructive alignment Constructive alignment is a principle used for devising teaching and learning activities, and assessment tasks, so that they directly address the learning outcomes (Biggs and Tang, 2007) (Wikipedia, Constructive alignment) Constructive alignment for degree projects would entail a common view on goals, teaching and assessment of degree projects Teaching & learning activities Intended learning outcomes Assessment activities
8 Degree projects - examples Title Same learning outcomes? SKF dual axis solar tracker from concept to product Premium quality at a mechanical department Analysis and presentation of combinatorics in product configuration Development of ventilation solution An investigation on how to measure data/information quality in the context of PLM What they spent most time on Detail design, build and Same test of mechanical system Surveyed literature. Interviewed people in order to map out process and communication paths Developed algorithm for data compression Same teaching approach? assessment? Detail design, build and test of mechanical part Surveyed literature. Developed framework for data quality assessment
9 CA challenges for Degree projects Intended learning outcomes stated by someone else A black box with the same inputs as outputs! Task initiated/stated by someone else Project goals not same as learning goals new QA system may strengthen this conflict Teaching partially by someone else Assessment partially by someone else
10 Intended learning outcomes for Degree projects challenges and approaches Starting points Degree ordinance? Specially written learning outcomes for DP:s? Our existing assessment practice? Variation A maximal set of goals? A minimal set of goals? Ownership Common university-wide goal vs departmentspecialized or personal goals Chalmers established a set of maximal university-wide goals derived from the degree ordinance Same goals for 30 and 60 credits!
11 Intended learning outcomes for Chalmers master degree projects 1(2) Specific learning outcomes for a Master s thesis are for the student to demonstrate: Considerably more in-depth knowledge of the major subject/field of study, including deeper insight into current research and development work. Deeper knowledge of methods in the major subject/field of study. A capability to contribute to research and development work. The capability to use a holistic view to critically, independently and creatively identify, formulate and deal with complex issues. The capability to plan and use adequate methods to conduct qualified tasks in given frameworks and to evaluate this work.
12 Intended learning outcomes for Chalmers master degree projects 2(2) The capability to create, analyse and critically evaluate different technical/architectural solutions. The capability to critically and systematically integrate knowledge. How many of these The capability to clearly present and discuss the conclusions as well as the knowledge and arguments goals that does form the basis for these findings in written and spoken English. average degreee project fufill? The capability to identify the issues that must be addressed within the framework of the specific thesis in order to take into consideration all relevant dimensions of sustainable development. A consciousness of the ethical aspects of research and development work
13 Degree project teaching challenges Teaching not only by responsible examiner/teacher but also by industrial supervisor Variety in projects inevitably challenges teacher s knowledge Significant variation in student s pre-knowledge in supporting skill such as literature search and analysis Little or no supervision training supervision skills mostly self-taught by experience (mistakes!!)
14 Chalmers teaching practice in degree projects Personal supervision by examiner, supervisor and industrial supervisor Some teaching presentation skills etc Instructions on how to design a thesis Plagiarism check No requirements on industrial supervisor Strong individual dependence Supervision meetings weekly, bi-weekly, monthly,
15 Assessment challenges Intended learning outcomes differ from project result goals Is a good thesis with much help always worth a better grade than a not so good one with little help? Lack of guidelines for assessment The time to reach the result may vary significantly Assessment partially by someone else
16 Chalmers assessment For a thesis to be approved, the following stages must be completed: An approved planning report An approved thesis An approved presentation and defence of the thesis Approved opposition of another thesis Attendance of the presentation and defence of two other theses Criteria for fail, pass and very high quality related to the intended learning outcome Fail/pass for all intended learning outcomes, very high quality for a subset
17 Assessment criteria (example) Intended learning outcome: Considerably more in-depth knowledge of the major subject/field of study, including deeper insight into current research and development work. Very high quality: A considerable depth of knowledge within the main area of the thesis is demonstrated. The work utilizes knowledge from advanced courses within the area. There is a survey of the literature including a reflection on the relation between the work and the knowledge frontier within the area. The work makes a significant contribution to the knowledge within the area. Pass: A considerable depth of knowledge within the main area of the thesis is demonstrated. The work utilizes knowledge from advanced courses within the area. There is a survey of the literature including a reflection on the relation between the work and the knowledge frontier within the area. Fail: The work lacks connection to or does not demonstrate progression within the main area. Knowledge from advanced courses is not utilized. There is no literature survey or a lacking analysis of the work s relation to the knowledge area.
18 Discussion 1(2) Is CA applicable for degree projects? Common learning outcomes as well as teaching and assessment activities can be identified but are less crisp than for a course The perspective will be that of a program manager rather than individual teacher
19 Discussion 2(3) Can the aha experience of working with CA for your own course be experienced by Degree project teachers? This is somewhat doubtful as the teachers will not control the course goals, nor the task nor all of the teaching Learning outcomes etc need to be specialized for the particular project if this is to happen
20 Discussion 3(3) How can CA for thesis projects contribute to higher quality? Point to the need for integration of specific topics and clarify these goals for faculty who need to embrace them Identifies professional skills topics such as immaterial property rights that should be taught by specialist teachers Support a discussion between teachers and between teacher and student on what constitutes good (or poor) quality The non-specified nature of the learning outcomes can be utilized to make students take more responsibility for them Enables an individual student-teacher discussion of the intended learning outcomes
21 Thank you for listening! Questions? Comments?