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John Baxter

Page history last edited by sceptrept 13 years, 11 months ago

Learning to be a professional in an academic context; preparing for professional training in Engineering

John Baxter and Penny Burden, Student Personal Learning and Study Hub, University of Surrey


Professional training (PT) is an obvious area of excellence in Surrey’s learning and teaching portfolio – it offers obvious and transparent opportunities for undergraduates to learn to be professional in a workplace environment. Engineering disciplines, including Chemical and Process Engineering (CPE) have long been at the forefront of PT developments within this institution. This paper is based on the experience of the first author as Senior Tutor for PT in CPE between 2001 and 2005, and more recent reflection on some wider educational issues. It concentrates on the notion of learning to be a professional within the “mainstream” academic activity that both precedes and follows PT placement experience.

The paper highlights fundamental differences in pre-placement and post-placement academic activity. It shows that “learning to be a professional” is much more obviously embedded in post-placement academic activity than it is pre-placement. The paper suggests that academic preparation for placement (and, hence, the placement experience itself) might benefit from a stronger professional ethos. It argues that many pre-placement learning outcomes, teaching and learning activities, and modes of assessment are, in some ways, overly modest. It suggests that certain deep-set paradigms underpinning learning and teaching, such as strong curriculum linearity and obvious content hierarchy, are arguably unnecessary and unhelpful. The paper offers examples of how changes in approach might serve to better prepare students for the academic, technical and professional challenges of the PT placement. This might both improve the placement experience itself and embed the notion of learning to be a professional more fully, and at an earlier stage, than is typical for current practice.

Key words : professional, engineering, curriculum, training, preparation, placement 

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