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The application of learning skills in an engineering programme

Author - Leslie Shoemaker


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Academic development and key skills modules

With the Faculty of Engineering, a degree programme in the Department of Electrical Services Engineering, which is part of the School of Control Systems and Electrical Engineering, has successfully incorporated a study skills module – Academic Development and Key Skills – into the curriculum. This module aims to assist to students who may have insufficient skills to cope with the many personal and academic transitions they encounter upon entering third level education. For this reason, the backbone of the module is teach students how to learn the skills, both personal and academic, that are required for a successful academic career and smooth transition to future professional employment. The module also aims to encourage positive self-esteem by increasing students’ sense of achievement. As a positive side effect, supporting students with the transition from second level education, and helping them to develop their study skills, has proven to have a positive impact on the retention of the students within the Department of Electrical Services degree programme (Shoemaker 2002).

During the second year of the Academic Development and Key Skills module, students apply the concepts and skills attained during the first year of the programme. These study skills in fact mirror many of the skills students require for their future careers, for example time management, presentation skills, communication skills (verbal and written) and task management (Education and Professional Development 2006; Curry, Sherry and Tunney 2006). Although these employment related skills are commonly referred to as ‘key skills’, ‘generic skills’ ‘core skills’, ‘transferable skills’ or ‘soft skills’, the way in which they are applied in the module in the degree programme means it would be more appropriate to refer to them as ‘learning skills’.

Oxford Brookes University has stated: ‘it is clear that graduates value transferable skills and rate them as more useful than course content while they are in their first jobs’ (Gibbs et al. 1994). Research by the university has noted the benefits accruing from these key skills being embedded within their programmes, showing that over the last 20 years, since the implementation of these key skills modules, graduates from Oxford Brookes University have earned the respect of the professional community and, as a consequence, a good reputation with both prospective employers as well as with potential students (Gibbs et al. 1994).


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