Though the kind invitation of my UL colleagues Lisa O’Donoghue and David Tanner, I had the opportunity to attend to the CDIO Faculty Development Workshop funding by the EIT Raw Materials running in UL on January 10th and 11th, which counted with the attendance of around 30 academics from the Faculty of Science and Engineering. For those unfamiliar with it, the CDIO™ INITIATIVE is an innovative educational framework for producing the next generation of engineers. The framework provides students with an education stressing engineering fundamentals set in the context of Conceiving — Designing — Implementing — Operating (CDIO) real-world systems and products. Throughout the world, CDIO Initiative collaborators have adopted CDIO as the framework of their curricular planning and outcome-based assessment. Its focus on the development of holistic graduate attributes in engineers related to personal, interpersonal and system building, complementing disciplinary knowledge:
– Design and innovation
– Communication and team work
– Personal skills
On the CDIO framework in general, I can say I was very gladly taken with a framework that I was not familiar with, and really resonated with me in terms of our own Graduate Attributes strategy. I had the golden opportunity to learn more about it from the leaders of the initiate themselves Johan Malmqvist, Kristina Edstrom and Jakob Kuttenkeuler during lunchtime. I am particularly interested in the potential for integrative assessment of graduate attributes, and the challenges associated. Kristina reported on a series of case studies from partner universities, but a cohesive assessment framework of the CDIO model remains to be developed. Also, there is much scope for online formats of CDIO training, that gathers the work of a very active network.
Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to attend to all the sessions scheduled but I would like to report here on a most interesting and practical address by Kristina and Jakob titled ‘The Teaching Trick: cost-neutral ways to improve student learning’ with many tips for doing less of those things that do NOT contribute to teaching as:
- ‘No comment’: By providing individual feedback to students that they don’t take on board. Kristina encourages us to ‘remember the purpose’ of providing feedback in the first place: instead of aiming for a particular report to be perfect, they need to develop the skills to write 100 good reports in the future. The antidotes to wasted time providing feedback is to spend time giving feedback when students can do something with it, build it in a learning activity, provide group feedback, experiment with peer feedback and provide feedback on demand.
- ‘7 minutes: Writing and correcting exams is time intensive and contributes little to learning. Instead, Jakob (bravely I must say) recommends oral exams to influence student preparation and test understanding better. His exposition followed however by a most investing discussion around the need for accountability, and the possibility of personal bias.
- ‘Family dinner’: which is basically about accounting for formative peer evaluation.
- Make people individually accountable for group work. E.g when doing class presentations, any of the students in the group can be selected to present. This works best with randomised groups. Again, interesting discussion followed about the challenges and opportunities this poses for increasingly internationalised cohorts.
My colleagues followed with their insights into the question posed: So why do we often keep doing thanks that are less effective for learning? Each answer deserves a whole PhD thesis on itself:
- Fear of the unknown
- The institutional system is working against you
- It is hard to take away things we put an effort into (old investments)
- We don’t really know what is inefficient
- We have locked all our time into funning so we have no resources retained for development
- The brick wall effect: take out a brick and anything can happen
My own answer: an awful lot of groupthink. I took the point from the lesson that we need to be mindful of claims around feedback provision, and really question how and when or even if, we need to invest valuable tax payer money on finishing students’ work (read, feedforward may need to become common currency). But most interestingly, I truly enjoyed the courage of the speakers addressing an (almost) all male audience of engineers with arguments of ‘quality time spent with your students’, ‘ageing gracefully in academia’ and ‘acts of love’ (yes, really!). I found it inspiring and fun way to challenge standard practice. It really challenged the perception of academics as all-hours working people who sacrifice it all for their careers, with a (not surprisingly Swedish-informed) perspective on taking care of yourself first for the benefit of our students and institutions.