The Curriculum Reformation Process

The key component in the curriculum reformation process described here is the CDIO Syllabus: A document codifying contemporary engineering knowledge, skills and attitudes. The Syllabus essentially constitutes a requirements document for undergraduate engineering education. It is both a template and an associated process. The process can be used to capture the opinions of stakeholders, such as industry, alumni, faculty and students, and customize the CDIO Syllabus to a set of learning objectives appropriate for any specific undergraduate engineering programme. The Syllabus’ detailed content was derived through focus group discussions, document research, surveys, workshops and peer reviews.

The following steps essentially describe the proposed curriculum reformation process proposed and links to important documents and online surveys:

  1. The first step in the CDIO curriculum reformation process is for program management and faculty to adopt the CDIO Syllabus as the foundation for the new curriculum. Adoption includes adaptation of the detailed content of the CDIO Syllabus in order to fit the particular engineering programme. The extent of this adaptation can be anything from simply rephrasing some statements tointerviewing focus groups consisting of faculty, industry, alumni and students in order to make more substantial adjustments. The Syllabus should also be translated to the appropriate language.
  2. The second step is to correlate the adapted CDIO Syllabus to domestic accreditation documents, if required. The purpose of this review is to establish that the CDIO Syllabus meets or exceeds the applicable accreditation standard, such that fulfilment of the CDIO standards necessarily ensures compliance with the accreditation requirements. As an example, CDIO Syllabus provides the correlation with ABET’s EC2000 used in the U.S.A.  
  1. The next step is to establish the level of proficiency expected of graduating engineers in each of the Syllabus topics. This has been completed by a number of the participants in the CDIO Initiative. Establishing proficiency levels is achieved by creating a survey, distributing the survey among appropriate stakeholder groups, and reflecting upon the result. A sample survey is available in the CDIO Syllabus and an online survey is also available.
  2. As a departure point for curriculum redesign, the curriculum designer needs to understand how the existing curricula stand up to the expectations of your revised CDIO Syllabus and the expected proficiency levels in each of the Syllabus topics. We recommend that this step be completed through a face–to–face meeting between a representative from the program management and the faculty member. It may be appropriate to initially only consider the second (X.X) level of the CDIO Syllabus in case the faculty member is not familiar with details of its topics. A benchmarking survey to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the existing curricula, considering explicitly the expected proficiency level in the different topics of the CDIO Syllabus, is available in both print and online formats. These templates facilitate the data collection and analysis using this benchmarking survey. The Black Box exercise, in which courses are reviewed by input and output knowledge only, has proved beneficial in developing faculty insight into the scope of their programs and the expectations and assumptions of their peers.
  • For practical reasons we recommend benchmarking the entire suite of required courses in a specific program and representative elective courses. It would likely be impractical to survey all elective courses.
  • The scope of the benchmarking activity should include all of the experiences that contribute to the undergraduate educational experience.  For example, institutional humanities requirements may satisfy CDIO topics such as Critical Thinking orCommunications, Ethics. Though outside the engineering program, they represent part of the student’s education for which the CDIO program should take note. Extracurricular activities may also contribute to an individual student’s development in a CDIO skill, but should not be credited in an overall sense, unless every student has participated.

3. The final step is to design the new curricula based on the outcome of the process so far; that is, the topics of the CDIO Syllabus, the expected proficiency in each topic, and gaps between the existing curricula and the reformed curricula.

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