lördag 31 augusti 2013

Handbook for project-based courses

I was invited to a meeting last week at a KTH vice-rector's office. The vice-rector had tasked the department of learning at the KTH school of education and communication in engineerings science with writing a handbook for how to design and implement project-based courses. The goal is to write the handbook during the autumn and to print it (and hand out a copy to each teacher at KTH?) in the beginning of next year. The handbook will also be available online.

I know the persons who are responsible for carrying through the project, Marie Magnell and Anna-Karin Högfeldt. They know I'm responsible for a project-based course and invited me (and some other teachers) to a start-up meeting for this project. Marie will do most of the actual work; she will follow a handful of project courses during the autumn. Since my course is one of them she will interview me, attend a few lectures/events in my course and perhaps also interview some of the students who take the course.

I don't know exactly how the handbook will be structured. Perhaps my course will feature as an example of a project-based course, or perhaps they will exemplify different aspects of project-based courses in the handbook with practices and examples from different courses. The purpose of the handbook is to create better conditions for university teachers as KTH and elsewhere to create "well-designed interdisciplinary project-based courses with open-ended questions".

There is a long list of issues they plan to discuss in the handbook; course design, learning goals, activities, examination, creating teams and teamwork, motivation, finding project tasks, cooperation with industry, creative methods, writing reports, creating prototypes, communicating the results of the course, course analysis, course development, manning courses etc.

Pros about this project: it's always nice that stuff you do is noticed and I also look forward to get a copy of the handbook - perhaps I'll pick up some new tricks that I can have use of in my course...?
Cons about this project: while not a huge burden, the project assumes a certain amount of goodwill on my (and other teachers') behalf as I will of course not be compensated for my time in any way.

Also, I distinctly remember pitching a similar idea one and half years ago with little reaction or appreciation. There were some funds at my own school (of computer science and communication) for running smaller pedagogical projects and I wrote up a proposal for a project called "Better project courses". The fact that I wrote that proposal means that I have already thought through some of possibilities, and especially the challenges of project-based courses. There is a small amount of "sour grapes" in my attitude here, but I do also of course understand that few projects go ahead purely based on the merits of the ideas themselves. It's also a matter of who you know and of being in the right place at the right time. The right person to know is obviously a vice-rector at KTH with a strong interest in project-based courses - and I didn't know her before we met last week. Also, I'm pretty sure the department of learning can and will do a better job than I could have done... So I wish them luck and hope I can do my part of making such a handbook better. I look forward to seeing the handbook (I'll probably write another blog about it when I have it in my hands) as well as seeing if/how my course will leave its mark on the handbook.

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