Pedagogical innovation: a core policy for UTC

Reverse classes, group projects, giant puzzles, and interactive tables: UTC has designated pedagogical innovation as a core-policy thrust. Why and for what purpose? The objective is to enable students to acquire skills in an ‘uncharted manner’. Intercations zooms in on two activities organized in Compiègne, this April, in the framework of the Sorbonne Universities Cluster.

Pedagogical innovation: a core policy for UTC


Tuesday April 17, on the parking esplanade of the UTC Benjamin Franklin Building, thirty undergraduates set up stands to present the concepts that underpin supply chains in logistics. The event has a festive air inasmuch as it celebrates 25 years of the UTC specialist option ‘Integrated Production and Logistics’ (UTC-PIL). Stock optimization, no-break improvement techniques, lean management, the 5 S method [a workshop organization with 5 Japanese words, translated as “Sort, set in order, shine, standardise and sustain”]; dozens of concepts were illustrated on the student stands.

In one corner of the parking space, Camille Poulain has perfected a grenadine syrup machine to represent “push” or “pull” flow production. In the former case, a large quantity of products is produced and stored, awaiting customers. In the latter case, production is “on demand” details this student in her 5th year (specialized in ‘Integrated Production and Logistics – UTC-PIL). And she proposes syrup drinks to her stand visitors, from one or other production method: quench your thirst and see innovation at first hand. These activities are coordinated by Dr Joanna Daaboul, lecturer-research worker in the PIL specialty. “The students all addressed themes related to skills and key facts in supply chains”, she adds.

These various activities are coordinated by Dr Joanna Daaboul, a lecturer cum research scientist in charge of the PIL specialty. “The students addressed themes related to key skills and knowledge used in supply chain concept”, she notes. But what were the origins of this wish to innovate in pedagogy? “In the PIL specialty courses, we seek to implement novel pedagogical approaches”, explains Dr Daaboul. “The world is changing and our university must adapt and change consequently. During training, we have our students face up to novel pedagogies and this is seen as important by them”. And visibly the concept was a “bull’s eye” success. This afternoon, numerous students came to discover the work carried out by their class-mates. “I am a student in bio-engineering, and I confess I did not know all these concepts”, says Manon, in her 4th year at UTC.

“The gaming approach helped me understand the underlying challenges”. Apart from the stands, there were round table debates with professionals of the supply chain. This enabled a combination of the practical and the more theoretical, aspects. This produced a mixture that Liza, another 4th year student found enjoyable. “The exchanges we heard mad us more aware of the ecological parameters of industrial production or the concept of the 4.0 Factory which is introducing digital techniques and technologies at the core of the production process”. From the industrialists’ point of view, this profile of hybrid student-engineers is highly satisfactory. “Trainees we receive come with excellent theoretical knowledge about production management and they also know how to rapidly adapt to the field realities”, details Romain Gunst, an engineer working with Servair. Augustin Margerit, a trainee doing his end-of-studies placement at Servair was able to benefit from these innovative pedagogies. He cites the support he found in his UTC courses to build his personal professional project. “During my training, I studied production and logistics but also ‘continuous improvement’. These skills and knowledge serve me today, every day.”

Two days later, there was a new challenge for the student-engineers: they were given 24h to assemble a huge puzzle. In the lab room set aside for this, there were some 15 students. You could see the concentration on their faces. “We have exactly 24h to assemble a puzzle with 32 000 pieces”, details one of the participants. “The challenge is awesome”. Jean-Gabriel, a 1st year student at UTC came along to encourage his comrades. “I’m busy with another activity in the Sorbonne Universities Cloister week, so unfortunately I cannot be here to tackle the puzzle with them. To be quite honest with you, I don’t think I have the patience needed and I must admit: their work really impressesme”.

The students subdivided the puzzle into different geographic zones. Working parties, sorting and scheduling previsions were made in order to prove successful with this challenge. “On the 1st day”, says one of the organizers, “the students had 24h to come up with a strategy to solve the puzzle. On the 2nd day, they were allotted 24h to implement their strategy”. Thus, using a gaming approach, the students learned to cooperate better, to solve real problems and to face difficulties together. These skills which are of paramount importance for future engineers cannot be taught completely is an ex cathedra classroom lecture. After a short spell of sleep and after long hours at work, the students had successfully assemble 2/3rds of the puzzle. As one participant put it “Those who want to continue can do so. We’ve done a great job and the puzzle has advanced a lot”.

Whether the students organize stands to, present theoretical concepts to the public at large or optimism the solving of a puzzle, all these different pedagogical activities share one point: they enable the students to acquire new skills in an unusual way. This indeed lends meaning to innovation. n


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