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Engaged in a seamless blend: A study on how academic staff approach connections to professional practice and research in the engineering curriculum
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Learning. KTH Royal Institute of Technology. (HEOS)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7496-2435
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The connection between research and teaching is one of the main attributes of higher education. Aside from this link, the relation between higher education and the world of work is another prevailing facet, particularly in education for the professions. In engineering education, both aspects – connections to research and professional practice – have been under continuing discussion regarding the extent to which these aspects should be included in the curriculum. This thesis focuses on this discussion; the aim is to explore how academic staff approach connections to professional practice and research in the engineering curriculum. A brief historical overview is displayed to present the background regarding the relation to professional practice and research in engineering education. The conceptual framework is based on the literature on curricula, teaching and learning regimes, connections to professional practice, connections to research, and academic drift. Methodologically, the work builds on an interpretive approach, using case studies and a discourse analysis as the primary methodologies. The results reveal three overarching discourses and each discourse has a distinct relation to the inclusion of professional practice and research in the curriculum. Here, the functions of these discourses are primarily preserving the characteristics of each programme and securing the boundaries of each programme from the different types of influences threatening these characteristics. Different strategies for including connections to professional practice, and for dual coupling of connections to research and professional practice, with the aim of motivating students and preparing them for the engineering profession, were identified. The findings show that links to research can be included in the curriculum while keeping the connections to professional practice in place, hence forming a seamless blend. Thus, the facet of academic drift that is assumed to be created by the inclusion of research links and leading to a loss of connections to professional practice was questioned, and it was argued that research-based activities in the curriculum contribute to the formation of professional knowledge. On the basis of the identified discourses and strategies, it was concluded that neither connections to professional practice nor connections to research can be a case of a one-size-fits-all approach; instead, each discourse requires local adjustments when implementing these connections in the curriculum. The results indicate that in the future, the discussion should focus on how to best combine the two types of connections because both are important aspects in the formation of professional knowledge.

Abstract [sv]

Ett av den högre utbildningens främsta kännetecken är dess koppling till forskning. Utöver detta samband är även länken till arbetslivet ett framträdande attribut, framför allt inom professionsutbildning. Inom ingenjörsutbildning har båda dessa aspekter – anknytning till forskning och ingenjörsprofessionen – länge diskuterats, bland annat gällande i vilken utsträckning dessa båda aspekter bör utgöra inslag i undervisningen. Denna avhandling fokuserar på denna diskussion och syftet är att undersöka hur akademisk personal tar sig an kopplingen till professionen och forskningen i undervisningen. Genom en historisk översikt över ingenjörsutbildningens utveckling redogörs för bakgrunden till dagens professions- och forskningsanknytning inom ingenjörsutbildningen. Det konceptuella ramverket bygger på ett sociokulturellt perspektiv som belyser hur akademisk personal formas i och formar gemensamma förhållningssätt kring undervisning. Därutöver redogörs för litteratur som beskriver hur utbildningars innehåll skapas och vilka faktorer som påverkar processen. Därefter belyses professionskoppling, forskningskoppling, och akademisering. Det empiriska arbetet bygger på ett tolkande förhållningssätt, med fallstudier och diskursanalys som de framträdande metoderna. Resultatet visar på tre övergripande diskurser som var och en har en distinkt relation till professions- och forskningskoppling i undervisningen. Diskurserna tycks främst syfta till att värna och bevara de specifika egenskaperna hos vart och ett av utbildningsprogrammen samt till att säkra dem från olika typer av influenser som hotar dessa egenskaper. Olika strategier för att inkludera professionskoppling och för att inkludera en kombination av forsknings- och professionskoppling identifierades. Det övergripande syftet med dessa strategier tycks vara att motivera studenter och förbereda dem för ingenjörsyrket. Resultatet visar att forskningsanknytning kan göras parallellt med professionsanknytning i en sömlös blandning och därmed ifrågasattes antagandet att forskningsanknytning skulle leda till att ingenjörsutbildningens professionskoppling går förlorad. I stället drogs slutsatsen att forskningsbaserade aktiviteter i undervisningen bidrar till professionsrelaterad kunskap. Med utgångspunkt i de identifierade diskurserna och de olika strategierna drogs även slutsatsen att varken professions- eller forskningskoppling kan förväntas genomföras på ett och samma sätt i olika ingenjörsutbildningar, snarare behövs anpassning till lokala förhållanden inom de olika ingenjörsprogrammen när dessa aspekter implementeras. Slutligen drogs slutsatsen att diskussionen kring professions- och forskningskoppling i framtiden bör inriktas på hur man bäst kombinerar de två eftersom båda är betydelsefulla komponenter i formandet av professionsrelaterad kunskap.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Kungliga Tekniska högskolan, 2019. , p. 71
Series
TRITA-ITM-AVL ; 32
Keywords [en]
Engineering education, research-teaching links, professional practice, teaching and learning regimes
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Technology and Learning
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-263788ISBN: 978-91-7873-346-0 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-263788DiVA, id: diva2:1370006
Public defence
2019-12-06, Kollegiesalen, Brinellvägen 8, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-11-14 Created: 2019-11-13 Last updated: 2019-11-14Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Faculty perspectives on the inclusion of work-related learning in engineering curricula
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Faculty perspectives on the inclusion of work-related learning in engineering curricula
2017 (English)In: European Journal of Engineering Education, ISSN 0304-3797, E-ISSN 1469-5898, Vol. 42, no 6, p. 1038-1047Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this paper is to identify faculty perspectives on the integration of work-related issues in engineering education. A mixed methods approach was used to explore faculty attitudes towards work-related learning, to describe activities related to working life that have been introduced into the curriculum and to identify factors that faculty see as important if the amount of work-related learning is to increase. The results show that faculty members are positive about integrating work-related issues into the curriculum. Programmes with more extensive connections to industry offer more integrated activities, such as projects with external actors, and use professional contacts established through research in their teaching. In order to increase work-related learning in engineering curricula, faculty request clear goals and pedagogical tools. Other options to increase work-related learning include offering faculty the opportunity to work outside academia.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis Group, 2017
Keywords
Work-related learning, faculty attitudes, engineering curricula, integration of teaching and learning activities
National Category
Learning
Research subject
Education and Communication in the Technological Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-194514 (URN)10.1080/03043797.2016.1250067 (DOI)000423957600031 ()2-s2.0-84992482348 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20161101

Available from: 2016-10-30 Created: 2016-10-30 Last updated: 2019-11-13Bibliographically approved
2. Employability and work-related learning activities in higher education: how strategies differ across academic environments
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Employability and work-related learning activities in higher education: how strategies differ across academic environments
2017 (English)In: Tertiary Education and Management, ISSN 1358-3883, E-ISSN 1573-1936, Vol. 23, no 2, p. 103-114Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The focus of this paper is on how academic staff perceive their roles and responsibilities regarding work-related learning, and how they approach and implement workrelated learning activities in curricula across academic environments in higher education. The study is based on case studies, including semi-structured interviews and analyses of course syllabuses in two higher education institutions. The results reveal divergent approaches between environments with limited and extensive work-related learning, and we present four different strategies for including work-related learning in curricula: add-on by someone else, add-on about the profession, integration of teaching and learning activities and integration with additional value. These four strategies represent a very diverse understanding of the role of education, ranging from education for academia to education for work outside academia, and contain various perceptions of the roles, types of work-related learning activities and integration in the ordinary curriculum.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2017
Keywords
employability, work-related learning, academic staff, teaching and learning activities
National Category
Learning
Research subject
Education and Communication in the Technological Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-205819 (URN)10.1080/13583883.2016.1257649 (DOI)000401607600002 ()2-s2.0-84996540023 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20170425

Available from: 2017-04-24 Created: 2017-04-24 Last updated: 2019-11-13Bibliographically approved
3. A seamless blend of research and professional practice: dual coupling in engineering education
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A seamless blend of research and professional practice: dual coupling in engineering education
2019 (English)In: Higher Education Research and Development, ISSN 0729-4360, E-ISSN 1469-8366, Vol. 38, no 4, p. 807-818Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this paper is to challenge the idea of incompatibility between links to research and links to professional practice in engineering education. The concept of ‘academic drift’ is introduced, both related to drift towards theory and towards research links in the curriculum.  Empirical data were collected through a case study conducted at a department in a research-intensive technical university, including semi-structured interviews with academic staff and an analysis of course syllabuses. The results show that the respondents perceive no incompatibility between including links to research and including links to professional practice in engineering education. Indeed, they state that the two aspects are mutually reinforcing and overlapping. Their rationales for incorporating such coupled links to research and professional practice include increased motivation among students and preparing them for employment. In conclusion, including research in the curriculum does not necessarily lead to academic drift; conversely, the curriculum in engineering education can consist of a seamless blend of research and professional practice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2019
Keywords
teaching–research links, academic drift, professional practice, work-related learning, engineering education
National Category
Learning
Research subject
Technology and Learning
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-249703 (URN)10.1080/07294360.2019.1581141 (DOI)000467839100010 ()2-s2.0-85062370176 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20190611

Available from: 2019-04-17 Created: 2019-04-17 Last updated: 2019-11-14Bibliographically approved
4. Academic staff on connections to professional practice and research in engineering education: a discourse analysis
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Academic staff on connections to professional practice and research in engineering education: a discourse analysis
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Connections to research and professional practice are both essential components of engineering education, although handled differently across engineering programmes. The aim of this paper is to identify the academic staff’s discourses on these components across three engineering programmes to in depth understand these variations. A discourse analysis was conducted on interviews, documents and observations and the results show three distinct discourses: the relevance and usefulness discourse, primarily emphasising engineering professional practice and connections to industry; the research and independence discourse, primarily accentuating research connections and independence from external actors; and the dual coupling and sustainability discourse, mainly highlighting a combination of connections to research and professional practice, along with a focus on sustainable development. The overall function of the discourses is interpreted as enhancing the particular characteristics of each programme and resisting different types of influences that threaten to undermine the characteristics of each programme.

Keywords
Research-teaching links, professional practice, engineering education, teaching and learning regimes, discourse analysis
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Technology and Learning
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-263783 (URN)
Note

QC 20191115

Available from: 2019-11-13 Created: 2019-11-13 Last updated: 2019-11-15Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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Output format
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