Shaping graduation journey: master graduation support and guidance put in place by TU Delft Study Climate Programme

The Study Climate Programme is a TU Delft-wide effort to further enhance student success by focusing on students’ growth and wellbeing. The program aims to catalyse the transition to an engineering education that leverages the full range of human potential: from the technical to the social and personal domains. 

Project background

With the outbreak of COVID in March 2019 researchers of IDE started investigating the wellbeing of IDE graduating students. Even when Corona is not in the picture, most students feel pressured as this project is seen as their ‘Masterpiece’ and the ‘pinnacle of a students’ degree’. Common challenges include a lack of routine and motivation, an unhealthy focus on performance, difficulties in making decisions in the design process, ... With the support of the TU Delft Study Climate Programme the project; “shaping graduation journeys” was initiated at IDE. The goal of this project is to have an impact beyond the immediate ‘COVID19-response’, and to develop initiatives that promote student success, engagement, and inclusivity in the TU Delft graduation process. At the moment, some small experiments have taken place, targeting graduate students and staff at TU Delft’s Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering.

Interventions steering change

One of the interventions was a response to the problem frame that students find themselves often isolated in their graduation project and overwhelmed with the pressure the create a project to be proud of. The final design project of a student is indeed individually assessed and an individual piece of work. However, working together actually benefits our learning experience and our design process (2). That is why we thought it a good idea to connect graduate students to each other and create a group of peers.

This idea resulted in our first intervention, a weekly check-in. For four Monday mornings, graduate students were able to join a one-hour zoom session, facilitated by two design researchers of IDE.

We started with a short plenary check-in, where we asked how they were doing, using the online tool Mentimeter (figure 1). The goal of this first exercise was to give the students the chance to reflect on their own experiences, their progress of the graduation project and, to find out how everyone else is doing. In the second and main part of the weekly check-in, students were split up into groups of four to five students in break-out rooms to spark smaller and engaging discussions. The group discussions were initiated by content provided by the facilitators. The goal was to challenge the students to question their mindset and approach towards the graduation project. In other words, to let them reflect and challenge their own ‘masterpiece’ thinking. (You can read more about the design of this first intervention here and watch a video summary about the intervention here)

We iterated on the previous intervention and introduced the graduation community program (CP) in February 2021 to the cohort of graduating students starting at that time. The goal of the graduation CP is to connect students in the same phase of graduation to each other for the entire time of their graduation. The idea is that within the community smaller graduating groups of peers motivate and support each other to improve the students’ wellbeing and shape a group that learns together on their graduation journeys. 

The graduation CP is still running but we recently performed an intermediate evaluation. We found that a structure is needed for students, but after the collective facilitated kick-off, things emerge from themselves within the graduating groups. Some groups meet every Monday at 9 a.m and alternate with one of the students being a host and preparing the activity of the session. One other group decided to share their weekly goals on ‘Trello’ and met in real life with a picnic. Overall, the students were very positive about this CP, indicating that this program made them feel like they belong to a community and gives them the feeling that they are not alone in their graduation journeys (see figure below for more info) .

Implementation and scaling up

At the moment the IDE is looking into ways to implement the Graduation CP in the graduation project for next year and researcher Rebecca Price has been granted the Comenius research grant to continue working on creating resilient graduates at IDE [Link to Comenius grant Rebecca Price]. Next to this, the project is scaling up with two other faculties (3 master programs) joining the project. At EWI the research and exploration phase has started and at 3mE interventions are being designed for the coming academic year. 

If you have any questions, you can reach out to m.r.vandenbergh@tudelft.nl

This project is a part of the TU Delft study climate programme and executed by researchers of IDE, Marie Van den Bergh, Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer and Rebecca Price. 

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