project management, literature review, graduate education, engineering
Background: Project management and other professional skill training is often lacking in graduate student education, typically as a result of limited resources, lack of faculty buy-in, and narrow focus on thesis research. To address this need and with support from NSF, we are developing the Graduates for Advancing Professional Skills (GAPS) program at Iowa State University. To aid the initial development of this program, we conducted a literature review to understand the current context of the development and implementation of professional skills in higher education curricula, with specific interest in STEM fields.
Purpose: The purpose of our study was to identify best practices related to implementing professional development skills into an academic curriculum. The goal was to utilize this information in the development, planning, implementation, and assessment of our GAPS program.
Design: We engaged in a systematic literature review. We focused on the curricular and pedagogical approaches to implementing these skills, results of the initiatives, and methodologies used to assess their effectiveness.
Results: Our literature review uncovered the “messiness” of teaching and learning of skills such as project management. There is often not one approach or definition of project management – it may change based on scope of project and context. Successful implementation requires adaptability, mentorship, problem solving, creativity, and communication. Additionally, project management has been referred to as a “threshold concept” and requires a certain level of intuition that cannot necessarily be gained through traditional classroom education.
Conclusions: There appears to be an agreement on the importance of implementing project management skills at the postsecondary level. Our work illustrates the difficulty associated with undertaking this endeavor and provides guidance on approaches that can make these initiatives more beneficial. Although this literature was conducted to aid in the planning for our specific project, the synthesis of the extant works can inform other faculty and industry leaders who are interested in teaching and applying project management techniques in their courses or companies.
© American Society for Engineering Education, 2020. Posted with permission
Gansemer-Topf, Ann M.; Li, Qing; Jiang, Shan; Okudan-Kremer, Guk E.; and Reuel, Nigel Forest, "Implementing Professional Skills Training in STEM: A Review of the Literature" (2020). ASEE North Midwest Section Annual Conference 2020 Publications. 14.