Kristina Edstrm

  • Student involvement in principled change: Understanding the student experience

    Kristina Edstrm and Josefin Trnevik (student), Madelaine Engstrm and sa Wiklund (student), Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and Linkping University (LiU), Sweden.

    Research seminar

    Themes addressed: Implementing and managing change and innovation, Theories of learning and teaching, Course and programme design, Assessment

    The CDIO Initiative is an international collaboration (1) to reform engineering education. The CDIO Syllabus (2) is a set of goals for engineering education, explicitly including personal, interpersonal and professional skills. It is the basis for curricular improvement and constructive alignment (3). Each participating institution is reforming at least one program. The initiative takes on a program perspective, as the aim is to influence our students' total experience of their programs.

    Student representatives are actively involved in the change process together with faculty and administrators. In order to better represent a majority of students the student representatives initiated and carried out a survey of learning experiences among their peers. In the three participating Swedish engineering programs they interviewed 56 students about their study experiences. Example of questions: What motivates you in your studies? What influences how much you study? - when you study? - the kind of study task you do?

    The student representatives soon discovered that they lacked a framework to interpret the data, and they were unsure how findings could be used to improve education. The solution, they decided, was to team with pedagogical staff involved in the CDIO Initiative. Together we linked survey data to concepts from literature, and to a previous survey with the teachers of the same three engineering programs (4).

    The aim was

    • to help the students develop a framework to analyse student experiences and make well-founded suggestions for changes in course design
    • to send the message about necessary change from the students
    • to show that theories on teaching and learning are appropriate to describe our own students' experiences in our own programmes, and can be used to improve practise

    The data was analysed in the following themes: What defines the curriculum, Assessment, Motivation, Interaction and Approaches to learning/Quality of learning.

    The results show that concepts from theory are indeed appropriate to interpret student experiences. We let frank interview quotes illustrate deep and surface approach, assessment effects on learning, hidden curriculum, cue-seeking, the different components in the expectancy-value theory on motivation etc. This is done not only to show that theory is relevant in our context, but applying the concepts in this way is also a way to improve our understanding of them.

    Concretely, we show how several aspects of course design affect student experiences of learning, and recommendations are made regarding changes. A separate "Top 10 list" of concrete recommendations with rationale was distilled in order to maximise potential dissemination.

    (1) CDIO partner institutions

    • US: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US Naval Academy.
    • Sweden: Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Linkping University (LiU), Chalmers University of Technology.
    • Denmark: Technical University of Denmark (DTU).
    • UK: Queen's University, Belfast.

    (2) Edward F. Crawley, 2002. Creating the CDIO Syllabus, a Universal Template for Engineering Education, ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education conference, Boston, MA (see

    (3) Biggs, John, 1999. Teaching for Quality Learning at University, Buckingham: Society for Research into Higher Education: Open University Press

    (4) Edstrm et al., 2002. Benchmarking of Teaching Practises. (see