Designing a resilient curriculum for a joint engineering first year

Lucy Berthoud*, Sean A Lancastle, Mark A Gilbertson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

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In March 2020, the University of Bristol in the UK was in the middle of the development of a new curriculum for a joint first year of 4-year undergraduate Engineering degrees for introduction in September 2021. This curriculum was designed using constructive alignment principles informed by significant student and staff input. The focus was on skills development, challenge-led projects, and creativity for professional programmes. Assessment was rebalanced from mostly summative to mostly formative. The arrival of the global COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the rollout of this curriculum: the new approach had so many advantages for this challenging situation that its introduction was brought forward to September 2020.
This paper centres on the elements of the new curriculum which made it particularly resilient for the pandemic. The constructive alignment approach ensured that curriculum developers concentrated on the overall educational aims of the first year, rather than trying to fit the education into set forms and modes of delivery. The process of developing programme-level intended learning outcomes, followed by a process of paring down the content and assessment of the programmes to focus on these learning outcomes, resulted in a simplification of the structure of the programme. Delivery methods were greatly diversified and blended, allowing teaching to very large cohorts in a variety of situations. True team teaching with staff members developing content together (rather than delivering sequentially) meant that, for the first time, there was some redundancy in the teaching teams. These and other positive and negative aspects of the features of the curriculum in terms of adaptability in the pandemic are discussed in the paper.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 49th SEFI conference 2021
PublisherEuropean Society for Engineering Education (SEFI)
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2021
EventSEFI European Engineering Education Conference - TU Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Duration: 13 Sept 202116 Sept 2021
Conference number: 49th

Publication series

NameSEFI proceedings
ISSN (Print)3006-631X
NameSociété européenne du formation des ingénieurs proceedings


ConferenceSEFI European Engineering Education Conference
Internet address

Structured keywords

  • Engineering Education Research Group


  • curriculum reform
  • curriculum review
  • resilience
  • engineering first year


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