Third year chemical engineering students (from left) Lynette Luo, Michael Zed and Jordan Mellick with Mrs Caroline Crosthwaite
Third year chemical engineering students (from left) Lynette Luo, Michael Zed and Jordan Mellick with Mrs Caroline Crosthwaite

Project Centred Curriculum in Chemical Engineering

Represented by: Caroline Crosthwaite, senior lecturer, School of Engineering

The Project Centred Curriculum in Chemical Engineering (PCC) is an innovative and highly effective teaching and learning model, which has been recognised nationally and internationally for advancing the education of chemical engineers.

The program offers a unique approach to teaching core skills and knowledge to chemical and environmental engineering undergraduates. The four-year curriculum centres on project-based learning that engages with each student's individual ability to refine solutions through critical reflection. It is supported by and integrated with all core teaching and learning activities in the program and is the focus for the whole-of-curriculum approach to the development of graduate attributes such as communication, teamwork, and independent learning.

The project incorporates the strengths of problem-based learning into a curriculum framework, providing students with a broader range of more effective teaching styles and learning experiences. Its implementation has fostered considerable increases in the collaborative, active and successful learning activities of the student cohort.

The employment of a team-based approach and annual curriculum and peer reviews by course, semester and teaching teams encourages purposeful collaboration and has had a strong and positive effect on the teaching and learning strategies of academic staff. Active contacts between teaching teams and student project teams are an essential component of the project courses.

The whole approach is one of continuous improvement and the program is significant in its systematic and evaluative processes, with students actively encouraged to participate in feedback activities. The program has received outstanding support from students, graduates, employers and professional bodies who attest to its success in enhancing teaching quality, and undergraduate student learning through active engagement in an innovative, intellectually stimulating and cohesive program. Industry as prospective employers and teaching, learning and research partners are increasingly engaged with both staff and students.

Further evidence of sustainability and success is the adoption of the PCC by the School of Engineering as the framework for curriculum reform and implementation on a school-wide basis beginning in 2004. Several other universities are also examining the model as part of their curriculum review and redevelopment processes. This curriculum is cited as among the world's best practice in engineering education.

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