The next generation of nuclear scientists…
In order to provide accessible and interesting training, especially in a field as technical and specific as reactor physics and nuclear reactor safety, the courses, modules and materials should be designed using principles based on robust and demonstrated pedagogical (educational) concepts and principles. These principles can apply to many different areas, such as how courses are taught and the design of the materials. In the traditional format, engineering students are exposed to new concepts for the first time in class. As a result, the students cannot dive deeper into the topics and must take the time to do this later with limited support from the teachers.
According to Bloom’s revised taxonomy for the cognitive domain (seen in the pyramid below), students go through various thinking skills while learning. This process starts from low-order thinking skills, such as remembering and understanding the course concepts, to high-order thinking skills, such as applying, analysing, evaluating the course concepts and then being able to create work themselves. Courses and modules should be designed to enable the students to reach the top of this pyramid and give them the skills needed for the challenges they will face working in the nuclear sector.
SOME OF THE INNOVATIVE TEACHING METHODS OFFERED BY GRE@T-PIONEER:
Modules will be designed so as to tell a cohesive story. This holistic approach is essential for providing critical-thinking skills to the students, while each module will go in-depth into the covered topics. This is in clear contrast with all previous teaching initiatives, where sets of isolated courses were compiled together with no clear through line.
The courses will rely on the use of different resources offered either online or face-to-face, either synchronously (at the same time) or asynchronously. Various innovative pedagogical techniques will be implemented, with those techniques properly chosen with respect to the thinking skills to be developed according to Bloom’s taxonomy for the cognitive domain. Formative feedback will be provided to the students on their learning during the entire learning sequence.
The ICT tools that the alliance plan use are:
- sets of comprehensive digital textbooks,
- associated video lectures extracting the key points of the textbooks, auto-grading online quizzes,
- use of AI to customise the learning to each student’s individual needs,
- use of various asynchronous and synchronous interaction channels between the teachers and students,
- dedicated interactive sessions focusing on active learning.
All tools will be accessible within an intuitive Learning Management System, constituting a single entry portal to all materials.
As mentioned above, when students are presented with a new concept for the first time in class, their higher-thinking capacities are not triggered. By implementing a “flipped classroom” where lectures and materials are instead made available to the students on the web and before class, the students can get familiar with the topics and more actively engage during the class. This can help them understand the topic deeper, allow them to ask questions to clarify areas that were unclear and also to probe and analyse even deeper while the teacher is present. Monitoring this asynchronous learning also provides important information to the teachers, information that can be used to tune the subsequent interactive sessions according to the student needs.
Students will participate in engaging activities, either physically on-site or remotely on the web, with the support from the teachers, rather than simply listening to a lecture and completing their activities by themselves outside the classroom (like homework). The interactive sessions in each course module will be offered in a condensed format (well suited for life-long learning) and will be organised in dedicated interactive teaching rooms allowing mixing students on-site and students off-site, while fully preserving the interaction possibilities between the two audiences and with the teachers. The core of the active leaning sessions will be based on carefully designed hands-on training exercises, heavily using research/training nuclear reactors and computer-based modelling environments.
Both students and teachers can give feedback on the content and implementation of the modules, shaping the courses to suit all audiences and ensure that the education the students receive is of a high-quality. In addition, anonymised or pseudonymised student learning data will be gathered and analysed, to better understand how the various resources are used by the students and whether the learning experience can be further improved. The learning analytics data will also be used to identify the concepts the students did not fully understand before the interactive sessions. The teachers will thus have the possibility to tune their sessions to the actual student needs.