The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
SXPS288 is the main experimental module at level 2 on the physical sciences pathways. The module was substantially rewritten for the 2019J presentation with updated astronomy and physics projects and a completely new planetary science project based around analysis of planetary atmospheres. Through groupwork and real time experimental projects, the module encourages and enables students to develop their experimental skills and also other vital employability skills such as working with others, awareness and assessment of their abilities and progress, and their knowledge of requirements and opportunities in the space sector.
As part of the rewrite, the module features an innovative new approach to recording, developing and assessing students' progress towards employability-related learning objectives. The module is structured into three main experimental investigations. Threaded throughout the module are skills weeks at strategic points within or between the experiments. These weeks contain activities relating to experimental skills, communication skills, programming and, importantly, employability skills. To enable students to document and reflect on their progress in developing these skills the module makes use of Learning logs, which are a student-led tool based around familiar forum technology. These logs, which are personal to each student, have been used successfully on engineering modules previously, but this is the first use in the physical sciences.
The purpose of the project is to investigate the effectiveness of this new approach to skills development and recording, and to look at ways to make it more relevant and meaningful to students and to improve engagement. Using student feedback (e.g. SEaM survey) from the 2019J student cohort on SXPS288 regarding engagement with Learning logs, together with student surveys, focus groups and AL feedback, we will aim to identify changes that we can make to the employability and skills development aspects of the module most effective for those aiming to work in the space sector and related industries while at the same time making them relevant for those without immediate career goals.