Teaching students in project management – a survey from a project semester
Editor: Kovacevic, Ahmed, Ion, William, McMahon, Chris, Buck, Lyndon and Hogarth, Peter
Author: Helten, Katharina; Spillmann, Miriam; Brandstetter, Duygu; Udo, Lindemann
Even if most subjects in the mechanical engineering curriculum focus on “hard” facts such as mechanics, material sciences etc., soft skills as well as process knowledge become increasingly important. Every engineer in every company has to face challenges related to these topics. Therefore the TUM Munich requires credits in soft skills from its students. One possibility to get these credits is the participation in a tutor system, lasting for two semesters. The participating tutors are students of higher semesters that are coached from PhD students and professional trainers. In addition every tutor leads a group of approx. 12 younger students (tutees) of lower semesters. During the first semester the team meets weekly to get both input from the tutor about soft skills aspects such as communication, time and self-management etc., and partly to prepare presentations and to participate in lots of exercises themselves. In the following second semester the tutees take part in a team project of about 10 weeks. The students are asked to design a small system. They have some constraints, but mostly they choose their procedure on their own. For most of them it is the first time they take part in a “professional” team work in the field of mechanical engineering. Even if the program in general shows an impressive improvement of the students´ skills, it has to be analysed to what extent and with regard to which aspects such elements in the classical curriculum really improve the students´ education. Especially it is of interest to what extent their awareness and performance in the field of project management increases. Therefore two student groups were observed during their team work. Main aspects of the analysis are the project progress (e.g. project definition and planning, project realization and project documentation), project organisation (e.g. project team and responsibilities) as well as methodical skills (e.g. creativity methods, concept evaluation, moderation). Based on the observation several suggestions are made to improve the actual tutor system.