Tag Archives: assessment

Engineering Diplomas get boost

Jamie Tuplin, Stan Owers, Mick Waters and Pete Williamson

Jamie Tuplin, Stan Owers, Mick Waters and Pete Williamson – presenters at the Owers Lecture 2008

The Guardian reports “Oxbridge to accept engineering diploma” – welcome news to learners and their teachers pioneering the Engineering Diploma in Barking & Dagenham schools. This timely announcement comes a week after another stimulating and informative Owers Lecture presented by Jamie Tuplin and Pete Williamson, and an excellent commentary in response from Mick Waters, Director of Curriculum at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. This fourth Owers lecture, organised by Core Education UK, was once again held at Oracle UK‘s offices in Moorgate, London on November 12th, thanks to Oracle’s ever-supportive Chris Binns who is champion for Oracle’s altruistic ventures Think.Com and ThinkQuest in the UK.

Jamie Tuplin, who leads the diploma developments Barking & Dagenham Local Authority and Pete Williamson, Head of Design Technology at the Warren School (and Learning Line Lead for Engineering for the authority), reported their experiences & issues of Engineering Diploma implementation in the first three months.

The question put to the audience was ‘Can Diplomas Cure the ‘English Disease’?’ and Mick Waters’ response, designed to provoke further debate, was to outline several diseases, all of which needed attention! In the end we had to stop, but discussion was strong and all participants were hungry for more.

Surprise, surprise

Times Higher Educational Supplement logo

Tara Brabazon in the Times Higher Education Supplement when discussing coursework masters degree courses:

“They are squeezed between the crowd control of undergraduate education and the over-bureaucratised doctoral programmes that dislodge the historically functional relationship between a PhD candidate and supervisor.”

She draws attention to the remarkable creativity of her students, when unleashed with a little flexibility:

“Although there is a science – and craft – to curriculum, we never know how our students will remix our aims and riff off our structure to create melodies and syncopations beyond our lesson plans.”

I know what she’s talking about and we have designed this thinking in to our new degree framework for batchelors, masters and doctorate at the University of Bolton.

Although her article is flowery in its language and this begins to grate as I get to the end, the sentiments and concepts are important:

“These students want a second chance to remake their careers and lives. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and their examples show that change and creativity emerges when courageous students decide to live their lives differently.”

Our take on this fertile opportunity is Inter-disciplinary inquiry-based learning founded in an action research philosophy.

At this point in her article, Tara switches to talking about the link between research and teaching, through the students’ inquiry referencing the HEA report Linking Teaching and Research in Disciplines and Departments.

My worry is that this paper, and her language, are not radical enough in conceiving students as co-researchers in the 21st century. Surely now, ivory-tower academic authority is no longer seen as the know-it-all top of the pyramid (to mix a few metaphors myself), but still has a vital role to play in gathering the best, modelling excellence and rigour and wisely critiquing and deferring to the evidence base from professional practice.

Tara pleas:

“I hope that through the stress and the marking, the stress and the moderation, the stress and the exam boards, academics feel buoyant at their teaching achievements but humbly reflective about what our students can teach us.”

Agreed, and I suggest we should focus on how to make these important teaching acts as delightful and stress free as possible.