Addressing the Teaching and Learning Challenges of ‘Service Courses’: A Case Study of Pedagogical Reform and Innovation

By Steve Georgakis, Rachel Wilson and Xiheng Hu.

Published by The Learner Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

It has long been acknowledged that ‘service courses’ present unique teaching and learning challenges and dilemmas for both staff and students. ‘Service courses’ are mandated in many degrees but are courses which are taught and delivered by staff from other departments or faculties other than those of the host degree. The role of these units in degree curricula is unique and so are the teaching and learning challenges they present. In this paper we outline the pedagogical reform of an electrical engineering ‘service course’ undertaken at an Australian urban university. This ‘service course’ is undertaken by students who are not majoring in electrical engineering but who are obliged to learn a substantial syllabus of electrical engineering principles. A combination of standard University student unit of study evaluations, questionnaires, focus-group interviews and curriculum theory were used to inform pedagogical reform. Two main reform strategies emerged: 1) modularisation of a reviewed curriculum into three relatively independent blocks; and 2) introduction of formative assessment with attention to the alignment between the outcomes, curriculum and assessment. The evaluation of these reforms included standard student feedback, feedback focused on the reforms and assessment of students’ approaches to learning using Biggs’ Study Processes Questionnaire (SPQ) for assessing students’ deep and surface approaches to learning. The former confirmed improved levels of student satisfaction and the later was used to verify that the reforms were associated with deeper learning approaches. The findings and discussion are applicable to other educators facing similar challenges in delivering ‘service courses’ for students majoring in other disciplines.

Keywords: Teaching and Learning, Service Course, Electrical Engineering

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp.233-244. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 830.618KB).

Dr. Steve Georgakis

Senior Lecturer, Human Movement and Health Education, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Steve Georgakis has published widely in the field of pedagogy and history.

Dr. Rachel Wilson

Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Rachel Wilson lectures in research methodology and has published widely in tertiary education teaching and learning

Xiheng Hu

University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia


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