22 SES 01 B, Employability and Transition to Work of Higher Education Graduates
Parallel Paper Session
Many universities across the world offer a model for course delivery which combines academic study with a placement in industry. This educational model originated in the U.S., where the automobile industry wanted to ensure a supply of skilled engineers. This educational process has been described in different ways, for example in America it is known as ‘cooperative education’, or co-op, while in the UK it adopted the name of ‘sandwich courses’.
There is a vast amount of literature which assesses the role of work practice in the development of competences and skills of future professionals, the effect it has on the transition of graduates into the work environment, how it shapes their career aspirations etc. At the same time there are studies which look into the effect of placements on students’ motivation in their academic performance. The research results demonstrate that students who have chosen a co-op model are more motivated in their studies than those students who have chosen not to go on placements [e.g. 1, 2]. The main reasons for the increased motivation of students who chose the co-op route were that their work experience provided them with evidence that the theoretical knowledge they learn at the university is relevant to their work.
Despite of the benefits that co-op model can bring into students’ learning experience, the success of this model across different countries varies. For example, in Sweden the co-op model is very popular among students. However, in the UK the number of students entering this route is decreasing .
In this paper we address the success of the co-op model, especially in relation to students’ motivation for their academic study using the co-op programme offered by the Engineering department, University West, Sweden as an example. The aim of this study is to investigate which aspects of academic knowledge students find useful for their practical placements and how their experience of applying this knowledge can be put into practice to increase to motivation for learning of the other students who choose the traditional educational route.
The main two objectives of educators are: first, to contribute to students' subject knowledge; second, to motivate students to learn. We assume that students coming into higher education have a so-called intrinsic motivation when they begin their studies although it is not always the case in practice. Our task as educators is to stimulate individuals, offer them external motivation to improve their skills and to ensure that they do not lose interest in their selected topics .
To achieve this goal a university teacher can build on positive students’ attitudes by creating an open and imaginative atmosphere at lectures and tutorials, for example through the use of alternative teaching methods, such as problem-based learning or project-based learning.
The study was carried out at the University West in 2010/11. The students who participated in the study opted for the co-op model and the participating tutor taught a module on Solid Mechanics on both co-op and traditional routes.
1. Gomez S., Lush D., and Clements M. (2004), Work Placements Enhance the Academic Performance of Bioscience Undergraduates, J. Voc. Ed. Training, V 56, 3, 363-386. 2. Duignan, J. (2003) Placement and Adding Value to the Academic Performance of Undergraduates: J. Voc. Ed. Training, Volume 55, 3, 335-350. 3. Sandwich Courses in Higher Education (UK), A report on current provision and analysis of barriers to increasing participation, July 2011, Education for Engineering. 4. Eklann, A, Kjellen, B & Svensson, L.(2010). ” Learning using case studies” (in Swedish). Studentlitteratur: Lund. 5. Sergiovanni, T. J. (1991). ”The principals a reflective practice perspective” (2nd Ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon. 6. Norman G.R., Schmidt H.G. (1992).”The Psychologial Basic of Problem-Based Learning: A Review of the Evidence.” Academic Medicine 67: 557-565.
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