The discussed. Furthermore similarities and differences between the

The
study of transversal skills acquisition by engineering students has become
central in ensuring future professional employability by studying how to define and prioritise such competence,
identify most effective learning
interventions and evaluation of these
competences by engineering students with this study focusing on the latter
two.

This
is influenced by labour market demands and consequently by various bodies of
engineering like ABET and IEA on one hand, and educational bodies like EHEA and
IChemE, that training institutions produce engineering graduates that
demonstrate transversal competencies along with technical or engineering specific
competences to improve the graduates’ employability (Hernandez-Linares et al,
2013 and Zou et al, 2012).

This
study objectives is to determine that (1) students’ transversal skills can be
developed systematically through appropriately designed learning interventions
and (2) tools used to measure the progress of such students in different
transversal competences (Zou et al, 2012) while also (3) detecting of students’
areas of weakness in cross-curricular training development (Hernandez-Linares
et al, 2013).

Zou
et al, 2012 research affirms all three objectives however limiting scope to
only teamwork dimension of transversal competences. However, Hernandez-Linares
et al, 2013 research scope includes 45 identified dimensions but has limited
objectives of evaluating progress and identifying priority ones which
complements Zou and others work as it is suggestive that this can be extended
beyond teamwork.

While
both papers findings are complementary, a comparative critique of the two
papers’ scopes, approaches and methods will be discussed. Furthermore similarities
and differences between the papers’ research and approach will be discussed as
well as discussion of the central issues they raise. Further focus will especially
be on the quality of the design of their methods and how well they have used
statistics to analyse their results including ethical considerations related to
their type of research.

 

Similarities

The two papers are a contribution
study of how the engineering teaching can be further be aligned to emerging
demands that for future engineering graduates’ employability to meet employers’
expectations, their transversal skills development must be explicit. While both
papers acknowledge this to be a universal transition and have linked this to
industry bodies of engineering like ABET and IEA and also educational bodies
like EHEA and IChemE, Hernandes et al, 2013, study has its reference framework
as the Europe’s Bologna process whereas for Zou et al, 2012 reference academic
learning models  like Tonso’s (2006) who
laid down a framework for building teamwork and the BESTEAMS (which stands for
Building Engineering Student Team Effectiveness and Management Systems) program
developed by Natishan et al. (2000) (Zou et al).

Moreover the two papers
acknowledge that their work is not new as previous extensive work done in this
area already (Hernandes et al, 2013 and Zou et al, 2012); however they both try
to show the benefits of their now contextualized studies to areas and/or
approaches not previously or minimally used. Both research adopt an imperical
study approach unlike previous studies that are only theoretical  which Hernandes et al 2013  claim “provide a more practical point of view,
providing data in order to develop a more in-depth understanding of this area
and help teachers overcome difficulties arising from a shift in methodological
perspective”. Furthermore Zou et al, 2012 allege Hong Kong requires contextual
research in necessary as “Hong Kong’s history and its socio-economic climate
are very different from those of Mainland China (Tung, 1991) and therefore can
be seen as a blend of East and West (Ralston et al., 1993)” including the fact
that the industry and university of interest has adopted USA standardization.

The two researches utilize
primary data collected either exclusively 
from university engineering students(Hernandez et al, 2013) or
population that is dominantly mostly same but has other sources (Zou et al,
2012) yet no ethical considerations are mentioned by either set of authors like
declarations of conflict on interest as they would be biased as universities’
staff members. Nor was there any mention of ethical considerations related to use
of a vulnerable group (i.e. students) given their inability to give a
meaningfully informed consent and also to their need for further protection and
sensitivity from the researcher.

While both papers utilized empirical
approach explore effective teaching of transversal skills to engineering, with
(Zou et al, 2012) focusing on teamwork competence rather than exploring other
components of transversal skills, their findings are complementary. In context
of Hernandez et al, 2012, both papers affirm that transversal skills can indeed
be acquired and the level of acquisition be measured or evaluated through both
quantitative and qualitative feedback tools like structured questionnaires
(Hernandez et al, 2013 and Zou et al 2012) and interviews, focus groups (Zou et
al, 2012) respectively.

Hernandez et al, 2013 approach to
explore whole transversal skill set has the advantage of demonstrating that the
evaluation of such skills can be evaluated using same tools same time but lacks
benefits of specificity inherent with Zou et al, 2012 approach. Therefore while
we know that all can be evaluated through same means both papers do not
indicate if methodology to deliver across component need be same or specific
and this may be important as learning institutions consider teaching costs
associated with transitioning to this emerging requirements. Hernandez et al,
2013 prioritization to only nine dimensions as key is a benefit to the users of
the study.  

 

 

Methods

Zou et al, 2012  multiple
approach when collecting data (utilising both quantitative (structured
questionnaires) and qualitative (open ended questions, structured and open
interviews, focus group interviews) methods) from multiple sources longitudinally
was appropriate and beneficial compared to Hernandez et al, 2013 approach
though this was most likely very convenient and time-saving approach for the
respondents.  Utilising multiple sources
of data allowed for greater acceptability of findings based on consistency and
correlation of responses across data sources whereas longitudinal span avoided
the limitations of once off, no pre and post data issues arising from Hernadez
et al approach. These issues include “not being able to determine if students
are improving their perception of the abilities and transferable skills they
possess and their transversal competences, in order to verify if such
competences” and whether these “are being developed properly within the
different study programs” (Hernandez et al, 2013).

However one advantage method Hernandez et al, 2013 employed
at data collection was validation of the questionnaire using Cronbach alpha for
internal consistencies which communicates confidence to the reader.

Data collection methods employed in both papers’ had further
disadvantage in that questionnaires and interviews as methods rely on
respondents’ recollection and opinions about events so rather, the authors
could have considered use of observations instead of interviews. Descriptive
and variance analysis statistical methods were employed and this in showing
progress perceived skill gain by respondents.

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