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## BTEC Level 3 Engineering Principles (Unit 1): Alternative Approaches to Effective Teaching

All new BTEC National Level 3 qualifications in Engineering now include the compulsory unit, Principles of Engineering (Unit 1), which is assessed by examination. It is a 120-hour unit, which contains technical content from both the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering disciplines.

Due to the nature of this unit, it is likely to be challenging for schools and colleges to deliver and it can also be difficult for students to develop the knowledge and understanding needed to excel in the exam .

In this article we will explore some alternative approaches to the delivery of this unit, with the aim of enabling students to reach their full potential.

It is important to note that performance in this unit will affect students’ overall grades, and poor performance may even prevent some students from achieving a positive grade. For this reason, it is necessary to ensure that students have every opportunity to acquire the necessary knowledge and understanding to do their best in the exam.

**Unit 1 Engineering principles – Exam opportunities**

Students have up to two opportunities to sit the exam for this unit. The first is at the end of January and the second at the end of June. A decision will need to be made before curriculum development whether or not to register students for the January exam as this will influence how the unit is taught. Doing so will give students two chances to attempt the assessment, but may not allow enough time to cover all of the unit’s content beforehand (around 120 hours of content).

It is likely to be beneficial for students if they can appear for both January and June exams. A successful result in January would relieve some pressure and an unsuccessful result would not have such a detrimental impact on the student. They would also gain additional insight into their own strengths and weaknesses during this process, ahead of the second exam in June.

Then, one option is to be selective about the content delivered during the first half of the course. After reviewing the sample assessment materials available on the Pearson website (here), it is possible to identify some potential ‘easy wins’. For example, there will almost certainly be a question about simply supported beams and also a question about resistor network!

**BTEC Principles of Engineering – Unit content**

The BTEC Level 3 Principles of Engineering unit contains mechanical and electrical/electronic engineering content as well as a substantial amount of mathematics. Most Engineering teachers will have a specialization in Mechanical Engineering or Electrical Engineering, so it can be difficult to ensure that all content is taught with the same rigour.

Ideally, three teachers will teach the unit, one specialist in mathematics, one specialist in mechanics and one specialist in electricity. However, this approach also has a downside in that opportunities to incorporate mathematics into contextual questions may be missed. The main advantage of this approach to presentation is that it would prevent teachers’ own biases from being projected onto students. It is important for students to explore all aspects of engineering for themselves, especially if they are looking for future work in the industry.

**Differentiation in engineering principles Presentation of contents**

As teachers will understand, the ideal is to offer teaching resources adapted to the individual needs of each student. Some students may need extra support to understand basic concepts, while others will be able to work independently, at a very high level, provided they are given the opportunity to do so.

The same will be true of this unit, where some students may be working at a pass level, while others are working at a high end distinction level. It can be difficult for teachers to present lessons at a level that is suitably challenging for all students, but this is necessary to ensure that everyone receives the grades they are capable of.

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