Newspaper image by Silke Remmery, Flickr CC-BY-2.0
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Faculty of Engineering
Dr Michael Murray
A coursework assessment contributing 15% weighting towards a 20 credit module (CL120 Construction & the Environment). The coursework constitutes an ‘assessment for learning’ (AfL) to support and promote learning (see McDowell, 2014).
Reading newspapers can assist undergraduate university students to become accustomed with the social, political and economic issues related to their studies. For civil engineering students specifically, newspapers can aid the introduction of a liberal education through the presentation of engineering endeavours as societal achievements. In particular, fresher civil engineers tend to conceptualise their studies and future careers as being dominated by computational analysis. Entry to university studies is dictated by their performance in mathematics and science and they have an overwhelming preference for dominant left-brain learning. ‘Reading’ and essay format coursework tends to be associated with the study of English and moves towards right-brain learning.
Please see the attached document for a full report of the coursework & results.
86% (N=139) of students agreed / strongly agreed that the newspaper coursework had provided useful knowledge about the role of civil engineering in society.
88% (N=143) agreed / strongly agreed that researching & writing the fictitious stories for the newspaper front cover involved the group undertaking creative thinking.
71% (N=115) of students agreed / strongly agreed would that the news coursework was suitable for use with the following 1st year cohort of students.
It was really helpful to underline the many ways that civil engineering helps society through reading real stories about civil engineering in newspapers and it has also encouraged me to continue to read more about civil engineering, much like the book review coursework did.
I felt that having to go out of my way to actually find civil engineering articles and stories really made a positive impact on my views as to what civil engineering is about.
Along the way, we (the group) definitely got to relate, and have a few laughs, with each other. It was really fun, and has got me excited for the rest of the year.
The fictitious article encouraged creative thinking I really enjoyed working with people to come up with a creative fictitious article.
One of the aims of this coursework was to help students establish communications with peers and ideally to provide a bridge to establishing friendships during weeks 1-12 of semester one. Both cohorts of students (sessions 2013-14 & 2014-15) already had laboratory groups with designated members. The newspaper coursework required the students to assemble in new groups with different members so as to introduce them to other peers. It transpired that a sizeable number of students found this socialisation process stressful and awkward.
Introduce and reinforce the concepts of industry practice whereby most graduates will be employed in teams that are multidisciplinary and inter-organisational. Reinforce why soft skills / attributes such as communication / emotional intelligence are important to employers.
Discuss the outline theoretical aspects of group and team formation (Tuckman-forming-storming-norming-performing & Belbin team roles) and touch on how conflict is managed.
Some groups found it problematic to establish and / or maintain group relations that would demonstrate satisfactory performance:
Even though there was two months to complete the task there was an extreme lack of communication in the group which has led to me just completing my own side of the work in an attempt to at least hand in something for the group. I am at fault as much as everyone else but I still wanted to submit something.
This coursework was used with groups (N=85 average) and is unsuitable for larger or small groups.
This initiative can be used with students enrolled on any course of study and it is particularly suitable with 1st year students as a means to introduce the scope of their chosen degree studies and to assist transition to HE studies through introducing peers to each other.
The results are being used in the preparation of a journal paper and the review of literature suggests that the use of newspapers as an aid to teaching and learning has some pedigree in secondary school education (see Jarman and Mcclune 2002; Oliveras et-al 2013) but appears less widespread in higher education. However, in relation to civil engineering students, Jennings and Ferguson (1995) secured assistance from two newspaper personnel to assist their students participating in a mock inquiry and Bather (2011) employed an article from the Daily Mirror as a means to prompt students in discussions about the future skill needs of municipal engineers. Outwith the civil engineering discipline Norris et al (2003) employed newspapers and news magazines with university students enrolled on science courses and Elliott (2006) used newspapers with student teachers as a means to enhance their scientific literacy.
Attached Document: MM 1st year News Results 2013-2015