Manufacturing and Design: Deep learning stimulated

Learning is strengthened by presenting thoughts on specific manufacturing theory to peers.

This course, Manufacturing and Design, of the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering of the Delft University of Technology, is a 2nd year bachelor course. For the purpose of the contribution to this innovation map, the focus of this contribution will be on the course design of the “seven most important manufacturing techniques” only.

Teaching manufacturing techniques to 250 bachelor level industrial design engineering students is not straightforward, especially when a fair amount of abstraction is required. Our students find it difficult to grasp abstract matters through a textbook, even when they have lectures delivered by co-authors of the book. The innovation addresses a solution to this specific point.

Over the course of 10 weeks, with a 20 hours per week workload, a selection of important shape-determining manufacturing techniques is taught, with a keen eye on the principles behind making things (‘abstraction’). By presenting a selection of seven most important manufacturing techniques for serial production the students get to know the basics of those seven. The broadness of the field becomes clear in these seven major techniques (‘shopping windows’).

The seven manufacturing techniques are addressed over nine course days, comprising the heart of the course. On such a day, before the morning lecture, a selection of exactly 10 exercises is communicated. After the lecture, students work in groups (for about 2 hours) on these 10 exercises. Naturally, they divide tasks. Ten minutes before the afternoon sessions, the ‘key’ is published. The key links each group to two exercises. All groups go to their studios, each containing 5 student groups. Ten minutes remain to write the solution on the whiteboard. The next hour is used to present the solutions and discuss. The person delivering a convincing solution is rewarded a ‘plus’. Three plusses yield a ‘bonus point’ for the final exam.

 

A special effort was put in the attitude of the teachers in the course. Not only were they asked to be host and timekeeper, making sure all selected exercises could be presented and discussed, but also were they asked to make a switch regarding their expert roll. They should evoke the development of understanding and expression of thoughts among students. We want our engineers to be able to reason.

A special thank you to my colleagues Bruno Ninaber and Erik Tempelman for showing me the beauty of this kind of education, to Stefan van de Geer  for constructive discussions on how to implement the desired change, and to my team of Annemarijn, David, Henk, Joep, Martien, Mascha, Maurits, Michelle, Robin and Sebastiaan for making it work!

As of 2014 a dip was observed in studio attendance, and also the students needed to be encouraged a lot to keep up with the firm pace of the course. Further pass rates were low. At that time an inspiring educational conference was hosted between the Dutch Technical universities[1], at which Swedish educators/engineers Kristina Edström and Jakob Kuttenkeuler explained their way to put ‘time on task’. This meant, make students present their thoughts in a short presentation in class, because, according to their findings, one really learns something when asked to present it to others. Why not combine the two? It was first tried in 2016 and polished in 2017.  

The results were positive. Not only studio attendance increased, so did the pass rate of the students.

[1] 4TU Engineering Education Conference (Delft, 2016).

  • Adding an incentive to come prepared to the workshops is an effective means to increase the motivation and learning effect of students.


  • Students are stimulated to come prepared to the course already from the start. This has a positive effect on their motivation, learning and pass rate.


  • Presenting the solution to a group of peers increased the internalization of the learning and provided the students with formative feedback on how well they had grasped the theory.


  • The way the studios were set up contributed to the group forming and group work. Students helped each other to prepare the best possible presentation. This in itself increased the learning.


  • Teachers learned to be more coaches than “experts”, thereby stimulating the thinking of the students and improving the learning experience of the students.


  • The pass rate increased due to this design.
  • Not all student presentations were up to standard. In such cases the teachers needed to make sure the discussions were put back into the right direction for the optimum learning effect.
  • Listening to several presentations during these 2 hours can make the session low in energy. Therefore make sure that variation is kept in the course. So every now and then there were no presentations, but other learning activities related to the topic.
  • The teaching staff should be aware that they need to steer the discussion, and not provide the students with the right answers right away.
  • Students do not always contribute to the discussions for several reasons (e.g. they have their own presentation in their head, they do not want to ask a critical question as maybe a groupmate will not get a bonus, and the session may take longer).
  • Allocation of the exercises to the different groups has to be organized well by the course coordinator, to make sure that all exercises are revealed at the right time and well distributed across the different groups and not giving away the surprise element.