Rethinking the Excessive Prerequisites in Engineering Curricula (74799)

Session Information: Curriculum Design & Development
Session Chair: Lerato Matshaka

Friday, 24 November 2023 11:45
Session: Session 2
Room: Room 704
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation

All presentation times are UTC + 9 (Asia/Tokyo)

In various fields of study, students often find themselves navigating a complex "prerequisite maze" as they endeavor to complete their programs on schedule. This phenomenon is particularly prevalent in Engineering curricula, where numerous courses not only build upon foundational physics and mathematics concepts acquired in previous semesters but also delve into advanced and specialized subjects. The prevailing rationale behind this practice is the notion of knowledge accumulation in layers, where higher-level comprehension relies on the establishment of a robust groundwork in the lower levels.

In this research, we explore two instances within Engineering curricula where the imposition of prerequisites was scrutinized for its necessity. The first case pertains to a conventional mandatory course in the core of Electrical, Control, and Computer Engineering programs, namely "Electrical and Electronic Circuits I." Recently, this course underwent a revision that involved the removal of a prerequisite in physics. On the other hand, the second example illustrates an opposite trajectory: the introduction of a new multidisciplinary elective course on Quantum Computing, which initially lacked prerequisites but later integrated a prerequisite in Linear Algebra. We conduct a comparative analysis of student grades and course completion rates in both scenarios – with and without prerequisites – utilizing current assessment methods.

Contrary to the prevailing assumptions, the presence or absence of prerequisites did not yield any discernible difference in student performance. These results cast doubt on the presumed indispensability of prerequisites in optimizing engineering education and challenge the conventional wisdom surrounding the layer-by-layer knowledge building approach.

Guilherme Temporao, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

About the Presenter(s)
Guilherme Temporao is currently an Associate Professor at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), Brazil. His main areas of research include Quantum Optical Communications, Quantum Computing and Education in Engineering.

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Posted by Clive Staples Lewis

Last updated: 2023-02-23 23:45:00