Continuity in Engineering Studies


  • Mario Mäeots
  • Jaak Umborg




engineering studies, continuity, self-regulated learning


High dropout rates in engineering studies are an issue that higher education is still struggling with. Several studies have been conducted that report different potential reasons and solutions concerning the problem of dropout. For example, a study carried out among engineering students by the Estonian Aviation Academy showed low levels of knowledge and skills related to exact sciences and low levels of technical skills to be the fi rst indication of the risk of dropping out as early as in the fi rst year of studies. This shows that continuity between secondary education and higher education is interrupted, which is why obtaining new knowledge and skills may be too challenging for the student. In order to minimize or avoid such challenges or obstacles, it is important to ensure unbroken continuity between secondary education and higher education. In this paper we make and describe recommendations that support ensuring continuity in engineering studies. As a first recommendation, we find it crucial to increase collaboration between higher education (proficiency related subjects) and secondary education teachers (mainly mathematics and physics teachers). This fosters a common understanding of what expectations are set for students in upper secondary school and what is expected from them during engineering studies. It is also important to know not only what is learnt in upper secondary school but what teaching methods are implemented in exact science related subjects. During the curriculum reforms in Estonia more emphasis has been put on applying inquiry-based learning methods in teaching science and exact science related subjects in basic and upper secondary school. Additionally, supportive materials for teachers and curriculum descriptions encourage teachers to support students’ self-regulation. This is supported by the literature, which states that learning is more efficient when students control their own learning. Self-regulation relies on planning, monitoring and evaluating the learning process. The second recommendation for supporting continuity is to embed inquiry-based learning and self-regulation related activities in engineering courses. The third recommendation is related to the development process of learning materials for first-year engineering students, as the materials should consider what is taught in upper secondary school. In conclusion, we need to create conditions for students to experience a smooth transition from secondary education to higher education. Contribution by all teachers and students could help achieve the required continuity.



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