Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Functions of an Undergraduate Module

Given the time of year and given that one of my functions here in UCD is to provide the undergrad behavioural economics curriculum forgive me another random post on what we are actually supposed to do in the undergrad domain. Below is the result of scribbling on a piece of paper in an attempt to get motivated for this year's endeavours. This is close to another issue that we have started debating a lot more - what is the value of "inperson" modules as opposed to downloading modules from the web?

(i) Give students an opportunity to signal their ability to the labour/graduate admissions market. To provide challenging assignments that are known to be challenging.

(ii) Provide access to information that will be intrinsically valuable for the students both now and in the future on reflection. In essence to provide a consumption product at the same time as allowing the student to invest in a stock of knowledge and positive memories.

(iii) Provide access to language that will enable them to communicate with other people who have taken the course.

(iv) Provide a link between the university setting and the outside world through practical examples, case studies etc., In essence, to give students a chance to "practice" being a decision maker before having to make real decisions.

(v) Similar to (iv) to provide students with an opportunity to express innate talents through interaction with others in group situations similar to real-world settings.

(vi) Provide specific marketable skills valued by employers in different sectors.

(vii) Get to know students in the module well enough to be able to provide employment references.

(viii) Awaken consciousness about how real-world institutions operate and their own potential place in this.

(ix) To act as a guarantor that a student has come through a module of study that is a requirement for later education/jobs.

(x) Provide students with an opportunity to form networks through the class both personal and professional. Synching up modules across universities an interesting way to develop this.

(xi) Provide a forum for students to discuss and develop their own ideas. Provide feedback on those ideas including references to wider literaturem, challenging gaps in reasoning and so on.

(xii) Provide students with an independent forum for advanced critical thinking. Provide an atmosphere of irreverance toward current norms facilitating development of original thinking.


Peter Carney said...

This is interesting. I wonder how this list would correlate with leaving cert students expectations?

The majority of them will know little to nothing about the labour market, and probably won't until they leave college! So perhaps your points i, iii, iv, v, and vi, would need to be especially emphasized early on for them.. The vast majority of undergraduate students do not think as strategically as you are assuming; it's an open question as to how strategic they should be thinking at this stage..

I think point ii, viii, xi, and xii are the and this is vital.

Point x is interesting and important -- the "personal and professional" relationships you mention are, in reality, going to be formed in the first month of college.. this should be recognized more. Maybe they should come to college a week ahead of term so they can mix, and experiment with some group dynamics *(i.e., settle down) before the business of teaching and learning begins. It's a very new environment for them.. Be interesting to see how something like this might impact on dropout rates.

point vi ... why try to simulate the real world when its on your doorstep (or coming in your window. UL job placements are interesting in this regard.. UCD could have a course (4 year) that included a work placement element - half a year. I imagine it would be popular, and could attract good candidates,..

chat more on this later..

I reckon a briefing from dean, head of each school, that communicates something like this to the students -- so they can realign their expectations -- should be introduced.

Peter Carney said...

Sorry, a bit muddled there.

It should read more like this:

I think your points ii, viii, xi, and xii are the vital elements of undergraduate education