22 SES 05 C, Employability and Transition to Work of Higher Education Graduates
The focus on innovation as a drive for developing competitive and dynamic European society creates new challenges for educators in equipping students with creative competences and innovative skills necessary for their future professional life. Integration of a variety of teaching and learning methods into existing curricula addresses this task and facilitates the transition from factual knowledge acquisition towards developing skills and competences for today's knowledge-based society .
This paper presents the results from a case study conducted at the University West of Sweden, concerning the use of project-based learning (PrBL) in higher education. In today's increasingly competitive climate, employers of engineering graduates frequently highlight that graduates’ lack important competences and the ability to work efficiently in team-based projects. This paper analyses student experience in generic and subject-specific competence development in order to evaluate the potential of using project-based learning. The aim is to improve students' employment prospects and stimulate their creative abilities. Equipping students with relevant competences required for their social and professional integration, successful career and personal development is a key mission of the higher education sector.
Project-based learning (PrBL) is an example of collaborative student-focused learning and is supported by constructivist learning theory [2-4]. This method encourages deeper learning through the construction of meaning, connecting ideas and creating meaningful artefacts. Project-based learning stimulates a collaborative knowledge building process among participants, develops self-directed learning, motivation, creativity, improves student performance and develops a range of study skills through creating an informal learning environment.
Despite the changes and challenges of modern society, the existing teaching and learning strategies in engineering are still very traditional and mainly lecture-based. The introduction of student centred methods such as problem-based and project-based learning [4-9] is still not widely accepted in mainstream engineering education [7,8].
1. Jones, B. F., Rasmussen, C. M., & Moffitt, M. C. (1997). Real-life problem solving.: A collaborative approach to interdisciplinary learning. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 2. Vygotsky, L. S. Mind in society. The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1978 3. Phillips, D. Constructivism in education: Opinions and second opinions on controversial issues. Chicago, IL University of Chicago Press, 2000 4. Light, G., Cox, R., & Calkins, S. (2009) Teaching and learning in higher education: The reflective professional. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2009. 5. Nilsson G. and Luchinskaya E. “Problem-based Learning and competence development: a Case Study of Teaching Mathematics to Computer Science Students”, Journal of Research in Teacher Education, 2007, No 3. p 13-21. 6. Nilsson G. and Luchinskaya E.” Using Problem-based and Peer-assisted Learning in Teaching Mathematics to University Students: Focus on Competence Development.” Paper presented at the European Educational Research Conference, ECER 2009, Vienna, Austria, September 2009. 7. Nilsson G., Kristiansson, L. , Luchinskaya E., and Luchinskaya D. “Competence development and employability prospects: using non-traditional teaching methods in a changing higher education environment”. Paper presented at the European Educational Research Conference, ECER 2010, Helsinki, Finland, August 2010. 8. Mills, J. and Treagust, D. “Engineering Education – Is Problem-based or Project-Based Learning the Answer?”, Australasian J. of Engng. Educ.,2004. 9. Perrenet, J.C., Bouhuijs, P.A.J. & Smits, J.G.M.M., The suitability of problem-based learning for engineering education: theory and practice. Teaching in higher education, 5, 3, 345-358, (2000).
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