Learning Outcomes Report

Slavi Stoyanov, Howard Spoelstra, Louise Burgoyne, Colm O’Tuathaigh

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    Aim of the study The learning outcomes study, conducted as part of WP3 of the BioApp project, has as objectives: (a) generating a comprehensive list of the learning outcomes; (b) reaching an agreement on the scope and priority of the learning outcomes, and (c) making suggestions for the further development of the Biomedical Design module. Method To address the objectives of the study, the group concept mapping approach was applied. Group Concept Mapping (GCM) is a systematic approach that objectively identifies an expert group’s shared vision on a particular issue, in our case the Biomedical Design module learning outcomes. The method involved the participants in activities that most professionals are used to: idea generation, sorting of ideas into groups and rating the ideas on some values (e.g., importance and difficulty to achieve). The analysis applied multi-dimensional scaling and cluster analysis to visually depict the experts’ shared representations on the learning outcomes as thematic groups. One of the distinguishing characteristics of GCM is the visualisation of the results from the analysis. Visualisation allows the emerging data structures and their interrelationships to be grasped. This facilitates decision making. Group Concept Mapping produces three main types of visualisations: conceptual maps, pattern matches and go-zones. Results The following thematic groups (clusters) of learning outcomes emerged from the data: ‘Attention to the end user’, ‘New approaches to design’, ‘Design process’, ‘Regulation and Ethics’, ‘Commercialisation’, ‘Knowledge integration’, ‘Communication’, ‘Collaboration’, ‘Higher order skills’, ‘Problem solving process’, ‘Connecting domains’, and ‘Learning goals’. Five more global areas of interest could be identified after conceptually related clusters were combined: ‘Design’ ( including ‘Design process’, ‘New approaches’, and ‘Attention to end user’); ‘Marketing’ (containing ‘Commercialization’ and ‘Regulation and Ethics’); ‘Interdisciplinary group dynamics’ (comprised of ‘Communication’ and ‘Collaboration’); ‘Learning objectives’ (consisting of ‘Learning goals’, ‘Higher order skills’ and ‘Problem solving process’) and ‘Creative combination’ (which includes ‘Knowledge integration’ and ‘Connecting domains’). Furthermore, the learning outcomes could be classified into two major categories: a) technical skills (new advancements in design process with special attention to users, also commercialisation and standardisation), and b) transversal skills, which include working effectively in teams (‘communication’ and ‘collaboration’) and creative problem solving (‘problem solving process’). The rating results indicate that the most important groups of learning outcomes are ‘Higher order skills’ and ‘Communication’. At the same time, however, these outcomes are deemed to be the most difficult to achieve. Other difficult to achieve learning outcomes are ‘Learning goals’, ‘Problem solving process’ and ‘Connecting domains’. The least important group of learning outcomes is ‘Commercialization’ and the easiest to achieve is ‘Regulation and Ethics’. The framework of learning outcomes consists of not only learning outcomes related to traditional topics such as ‘Design process’ and ‘Creative problem solving’, but also themes not very popular in curriculums on design such as ‘Commercialisation’, ‘Standardisation’, ‘Regulations’, and ‘Ethics’. The results also show there is a moderate correlation between the two values of importance and difficulty to achieve on the cluster level. The clusters ‘Problem solving process’, ‘Connecting domains’ and ‘Commercialization’ score lower on importance but higher on difficulty to achieve. In contrast, ‘Regulation and Ethics’ scores higher on importance but relatively lower on difficulty to achieve. Conclusions This study provided not only an empirical basis for identifying the main learning outcomes areas for an educational module on Biomedical Design, but also suggested how to operationally define them (through the statements in each cluster). The study emphasizes the need for addressing the highest level of learning taxonomy (analysis, synthesis, problem solving, creativity) when defining learning outcomes. It further reveals the need to teach students to integrate knowledge from different professional domains. However, the overall conclusion must be that the study not only identified learning outcomes for the Biomedical Design module when considered in isolation from the encompassing curriculum, but that the identified learning outcomes can only be effectively achieved when further integration of the module in the curriculum is allowed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


    • Learning outcomes
    • Interdisciplinary learning
    • Group Concept Mapping
    • Curriculum design


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