The Learning Experience of Engineering Foundation Degree Students
University foundation courses have been designed to address the need of highly-diverse groups of students approaching Higher Education. These courses have been developed to support the needs and expectation of both traditional and non-traditional students, either keen on securing employment, or embarking with confidence on an Honours Degree programme. One of these programmes is the “Foundation Degree”, which targets individuals wishing to acquire knowledge and skills readily interfaceable with the work environment (Higgins, Artess and Johnstone, 2010); Engineering is particularly suited to be the subject of this type of course due to its intrinsic empirical character as a discipline. The development of Engineering Foundation Degrees has also met the employers’ demand for a competent, empirically-oriented work force. In the past 15 years, the Foundation Degree has been developed to respond not only to the needs of employers, but to fulfil students' demand for a course that balance empirical and theoretical contents and learning activities.Another foundation programme is the “Extended Degree” in Engineering, which offers a foundation year to applicants who did not fulfil the entry criteria for the first year of an accredited Engineering Honours degree (Fowler, 2015). Like the Foundation Degree, this course is aimed to both traditional and non-traditional students, supporting and enabling the acquisition of the necessary skills and knowledge to enter Higher Education, whilst taking into account their previous experience (McDowell, 1995). This course was initially developed in the 1980s to increase the national pool of professional engineers, and therefore was developed as a Level 0 study programme preceding the first year of an Engineering Honours degreeThere is a need to capture the learning experience of foundation students approaching Higher Education in order to develop and improve learning methodologies that provide them a rich and enjoyable learning experience, hopefully contributing to their academic, professional and personal development. This paper builds upon the past experience of foundation students to further elucidate the mechanisms behind the learning process of students of engineering foundation courses. The author's experience as a lecturer in a foundation engineering course at a British Higher Education Institution is presented and analysed. The effectiveness of contemporary learning methodologies and pedagogies on the learning process of students of engineering foundation courses, including the author’s, is then discussed. The evidence gathered shows that taking into account students’ emotions within the context of a problem-based approach to learning promotes student engagement and is an example of deep learning (Montero and Gonzalez, 2009).