An exploratory investigation into the context specific perceptions and practices of second year mechanical engineering undergraduates

Jenna Tudor

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis explores students’perceptions and practices within the context of a Mechanical Engineering undergraduate degree at a UK Higher Education institution. This engineering education research is situated in the pragmatic paradigm and is informed by a relational view of learning. The study explores the perceptions of students throughout the second year of their programme and also investigates their practices during the same time period. The research employs a mixed-methods exploratory methodology with data collection led by a dominant qualitative phase and followed by a quantitative phase. Data is integrated to present a holistic understanding of students’ perceptions and practices. The results demonstrate the importance for academia to consider students’ expectations and perceptions and to understand students’ actual practices. Analysis of the data has enabled the context to be defined from a student perspective; showing four key areas of context as being the staff-student relationships, students and student cultures, the teaching and assessment context, and the course contexts. The connection between students’perceptions and their practices is clearly established in the data. The integrated findings highlight the complexities involved for students in carrying out the practice of learning in a complex environment alongside their own perceptions of the discipline, the programme, their peers and staff. Combining the two data types has enabled the significance of perceptions to be highlighted, the vast elements of context to be demonstrated and finally recommendations to be produced to inform the design and execution of engineering education. Specific attention is drawn to findings which suggest further explanatory work is required to explore aspects such as; students’perceptions of importance, their participation in informal peer working, the distinction between procedural and conceptual learning for the discipline and the expectation of professionalism that students hold.
Original languageEnglish
  • Penlington, Roger, Supervisor
  • McDowell, Liz, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusIn preparation - May 2013


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