Teacher-Researchers as Levers of Doctoral Curriculum in Engineering

Pia Helena Lappalainen


Policy-level interventions aim to expedite institutional change in universities but the related decisions rarely materialize as sustained grassroots-level implementations genuinely transforming teaching or learning practices. A vision without execution remains mere rhetoric or could even disrupt the persistent long-term development that committed teachers pursue as their more subtle and routine mode of operation. This article therefore suggests that attention be turned to classroom processes and research efforts that allow university teacher-researchers to practice their occupation in the most effective way possible. Such efforts draw on teacher resources, competence and motivation, and benefit the students through an elevated quality and targeted content of education. This article showcases an empirical development endeavor from Aalto University that, while responding to doctoral students’ learning needs and institutional demands for higher publication productivity, enhances teacher capacity and paves the way for a more extensive bottom-up institutional reform of doctoral education. The data-driven, quantitative analysis of a sample of 381 doctoral candidates in engineering directs the pedagogic focus in a doctoral writing course away from grammar and linguistic proficiency towards writing support that accentuates usability and communicative value. In particular, the study proposes foci on writing efficiency, effect and reader satisfaction, ultimately facilitating publication productivity and quality. This article describes the pedagogical basis for the Writing Doctoral Research course that was built as a result of the needs analysis, and presents the related course design and organization. The ultimate aim is to substantiate allocation of language teacher working hours to research by demonstrating how audience needs analyses can benefit both the quality of education and teacher renewal.

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International Journal of Engineering Pedagogy (iJEP) – eISSN: 2192-4880
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