Quality management: an 'essential attributes' approach. A case study towards a sustainable model of course effectiveness evaluation

Murphy, Francis Spenser (2005). Quality management: an 'essential attributes' approach. A case study towards a sustainable model of course effectiveness evaluation. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.000101b8


An education programme for mechanical engineers should ensure that graduates have a number of 'essential attributes' (high level of mathematical ability, teamwork skills, creativity, etc.) for them to adequately function as professional engineers. This research examines a case study of the BEng (Mechanical Engineering) at Cork Institute of Technology, Ireland. The delivery of essential attributes are proposed as criteria for the measurement of educational effectiveness. From a review of literature concerning organisational/educational effectiveness, the concepts of 'microquality' and 'macroquality' are developed. Redefining these concepts, facilitates an examination of the case study (microquality) in determining 'fitness for purpose' and the wider debate on engineering higher education (macroquality) in determining 'standards of excellence'. The BEng course is compared with both 'fitness for purpose' and 'excellence'.

Gathering of data utilises qualitative interviews of stakeholders, documentation analysis and some workplace observation. Data analysis of interviews, course and wider debate documentation is undertaken using QSR NUD*IST version 4 software. Following preliminary data gathering, theory building produces an engineering concept of excellence (a sustainable world). A causal model is developed with this concept as the aim, which links standards of excellence, essential attributes, educational factors, student intelligences, learning theories and staff training. Modifying this model by including the influences of documentation and interviews, leads to a model of course effectiveness evaluation, which is offered as a method suitable for other courses. This model extends existing employability theory by providing it with an alternative structure.

The case study examines the BEng course for 'fitness for purpose' and 'excellence'. Improvements are recommended in both cases. The core stakeholder group (graduates and students), are found to have provided standards of excellence with the most impact on the engineering concept of excellence and course sustainability. The wider debate documentation does not have as much impact as originally thought. The core stakeholder group appears to be demanding excellence from the course and not just fitness for purpose. It will be interesting to see if this is the case for other disciplines.

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