The implications of the curriculum process on
the design of a modern engineering programme in the Dublin Institute
In the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) the curriculum usually
starts with a programme document. The programme document will be
a snapshot of faculty thinking at a point in time, usually at the
validation stage of the programme. The programme document lays down clearly
the aims, objectives, facilities, staff, syllabi, learning/teaching
methods, assessment procedures, programme-management arrangements and
all of the other characteristics of the programme. It provides a basis
for critical scrutiny by all involved. Compilation of the document
is an iterative process, and the final document is scrutinised by
an expert panel as part of the validation process.
A dynamic faculty will not consider the programme document to be written
in stone; rather, they will regard it more as a template to which
changes are constantly made. Students' learning must not be restricted
within the parameters set by a programme document. To do so would be
to limit their learning to the confines of the imagination of the
Boud et al. (1996)
suggest programme designers should not presume that the experience
they hope to elicit, would actually take place. The nature of the
experience will be determined largely by what the learner brings
to the situation. In other words, what emerges from a learning activity
will have more to do with the learner than the designer or provider.
argues that objectives that are easily assessed sometimes take on
a greater importance in student assessment, simply because they
are easily assessed and defended. The key to good programme design
may well be finding a way to assess student learning and give them
credit (in marks) for what they learn, including that which is outside
the syllabus. With student-centred learning this can be significant
The tiger economy has raised most peoples’ expectations
in life. Knowles (1998)
believes that as people mature, their self-concept moves from being
a dependent personality towards one of self-directing human beings.
Many students at third level now feel a responsibility to make themselves
as financially independent as possible: whole-time students expect
their third-level education to fit around their lives – and
particularly their part-time jobs – in a flexible manner.
Up to the early 1990s, students entering third level had high Leaving
Certificate points. The probability is that these outstanding students
would have succeeded under any learning/teaching method we used,
such was their motivation and ability. We now have to educate students
with a lower number of entry points. To do this successfully we
must evaluate the learning/teaching methods we are using and develop
alternative strategies for a variety of learning styles. Many of
the students entering third level with moderate points are very
bright and motivated, but may not have responded well to the teaching
style used in second level. We must strive to provide students with
an opportunity to find the learning style which best suits them.
The role of teaching is changing to one of facilitating learning.
The students needs are at the centre of the process.