What’s been left out of the new curriculum that was taught previously?
A couple of specific topics have been moved to the masters level, but I would say that the biggest change has been in restructuring the learning goals around concepts rather than content. We want to ensure our students are able to mix different material concepts and combine them effectively. In particular, they should be able to deal with intellectual conundrums. They should not see studying as something that provides them with all the answers.
When will the first students take the new bachelor’s study programme?
In the Autumn Semester 2020.
What about students still following the old curriculum?
They will stick with the old curriculum and the same framework, although of course we start to introduce some of the new teaching approaches and ideas that we developed for the new curriculum into our current courses. By the way, the input from the current stream of bachelor’s and masters students has been very valuable and we have incorporated many of their suggestions in our new curriculum.
What about the master’s course? Will you be updating this as well?
Yes, but that won’t be my job. It will be the task of my successor as Director of Studies. The master’s curriculum must be updated to ensure continuity with the bachelor’s course.
Do you have a favourite teaching method?
When I started teaching, the only format that I had ever experienced was lectures. So I gave lectures. Soon after that I tried the “flipped classroom” approach before it was really established as a method, and it didn’t work well at all! But admittedly that was a few decades ago and there was less understood about flipped classroom pedagogy. Nowadays I use blended teaching formats with a mixture of lecturing, practical exercises and hands-on learning components. With some teaching content, I still haven’t discovered how to teach something to the students without going through the stuff step by step on the board. I still think this is one of the most effective teaching methods. Although it’s a little old-fashioned, the students seem to appreciate it. I never use powerpoint unless I think my students need to catch up on their sleep.
When you were writing your
as you were managing the project, you compared the process of overhauling the bachelor’s curriculum in materials science with Brexit. Why is that?
Our project started at almost the same time as the Brexit vote, and our new regulations were approved just before the UK’s January 31
departure from the EU! At the start of the revision, our project team took a basic project management course and so it was even more striking to me how badly the UK was managing its exit from the EU. I have to admit that being British myself, I was also suffering from a kind of “Brexit depression” at the time that I wrote that blog entry. In any case, the blog was very helpful in keeping up communication about the study programme reform within the project team and the department.
So would you say the worst is now behind you?
Things were never actually bad with the project. There was just an awful lot to do. We have now finished most of the work on the “philosophy” of what a materials graduate should be able to do, and the structure and learning goals of the study programme. The learning goals for each module have been agreed. Now we need to develop the details of each individual teaching modules. That’s a job for the individual lecturers. In terms of workload, it’s comparable with preparing new lectures or teaching projects.