Project introduction and background information
Our MSc course 'Water and Air Flow Numerical Techniques' (WANT, hereafter) is attended by a wide range of students, with various backgrounds. Currently, the course is not designed to tailor the content to the high variation in background knowledge. The evaluations show that students with a non-optimal background rate the course as challenging, whereas the students that have the optimal background, indicate that they are insufficiently challenged. Therefore, time is spent on knowledge gaps and consequently, not all students are receiving the highest possible quality scientific knowledge. Furthermore, as we aim to teach the highest level of cognitive skills in WANT, there is a partial misalignment between our learning outcomes (numerical techniques, mainly trained through computer practicals) and the assessment, which is currently a written exam with open questions.
In this education innovation project, we want to define three core themes that will be discussed in this 4-weeks full-time course. Every week, we want to provide the students the opportunity to choose the track for that particular theme: either an applied track (training a wide range of skills) or a theoretical track (in-depth training of skills tailored to the student). At the end of each week, the students from the different tracks learn from each other in a discussion session with the lecturers being present as advisors. This will also be a moment of formative assessment. Both groups will work on the same complex problem, but the applied track studies the practical aspects of modelling (the model is prepared and they will work on a real case), whereas the theory track focuses on the theoretical foundations (they will construct the model themselves from scratch). In the exchange sessions, both perspectives are discussed. In this way, we provide students the opportunity to challenge themselves and make the most out of this course.
An important challenge, that is inherently linked to personalized learning, is that all students are expected to reach the same learning outcomes, independent of the track they chose throughout the course. Therefore, the first step for implementing this project is to investigate how the different learning paths can lead to the same learning outcomes. We aim to do this in close collaboration with education experts from the Education Support Centre.
After identifying the learning paths towards the learning outcomes, we first aim to outline the course content for the applied track. This can be largely based on the current course content. Within the content, we have to identify the core themes (we aim for three) in which the students can follow the theory track. We will design new assignments for the theory track. The assignments will be designed such that it allows for easy adaptation to different levels, for example by making hints available that the students can consult at their own initiative. For the most challenging tasks no standard answer will be available as these assignments will reach the boundaries of our current state of knowledge.
The theory track will mathematically be more challenging. Therefore, we will define guidelines on what is assumed knowledge when doing the theoretical track. Furthermore, we will provide directives for self-study to supplement this knowledge if there are knowledge gaps. Second, we aim to introduce multiple formative assessment moments throughout the course. We aim to align this with the earlier mentioned exchange sessions between the applied and the theoretical track. Here, students learn from each other, and the teachers take an advisory role. These sessions need to be introduced in the examination to correct the current misalignment between learning outcomes and assessment. We will have to develop ways to assess the students throughout the course.
Objective and expected outcomes
Personalized learning paths: we aim to provide our students a flexible and personalized route to the learning outcomes of our course, with multiple assessment moments throughout the course. Within this route, we aim to provide an application track (training a wide range of skills) or an orthogonal theory track (in-depth training of skills tailored to the student).
Results and learnings
As a result we now have a more structured course with challenging assignments for those students that seek extra challenge.
- Students are motivated to do challenging assignments without being rewarded for this (this is a MSc course) ;
- Self-explanatory hints that the students can open when getting stuck limit the supervision time.