Creating a Learning Environment for Development of Professional Competencies in the IT in Society Class

I would claim that the Learning outcomes of the IT society course are very different from most courses at the University.  The IT in society class has focus on development of professional competencies.

The learning outcomes specified of the course are:

  1. Collaborate in a large project with an external client, and present a professional solution, both orally and in written form to the client.
  2. Handle, validate and analyse a very complex and multi-facetted problem in a constructive manner in a project group.
  3. Evaluate, criticize and validate solutions to IT-related problems from perspectives such as ethics, sustainable development, work environment, economy and usefulness.
  4. Illustrate, show and describe experiences from working in a multi-cultural distributed project.
  5. Evaluate and analyse one’s abilities and competencies regarding working in a multi-cultural and distributed project, as well as develop strategies that lead to lifelong learning.

In this blog post I will be talking about the last learning outcomes in the list above, number 5. The learning outcome that people should have the ability to evaluate and analyse one’s abilities and competencies, and to develop strategies for lifelong learning in the area of Computer science.

We have been working on creating a learning environment where it is possible to develop and practice the lifelong learning competence. And we have improved the environment quite a lot over the years. This is how we do it this year:

  1. First, we have a traditional lecture about professional competencies. We present one way of looking at these competencies and what they consist of. We have chosen to work with the competences developed by Curtin University.
  2. Second, we have a workshop with the students where they write their own personal learning agreement. These learning agreements should include
    1. Why they have chosen three specified competencies to work with during the course.
    2. What they will do to develop their confidence in the three areas.
    3. How they will know that they have improved. And how faculty can know that they have improved.
  3. Third, we have meetings with groups of three students. In these meetings, the students present their learning agreement, and we discuss it together as well as the social strategies to improve that competence.
  4. Often this meeting is followed by a second meeting where we do the same thing in the first meeting since the students need more help in writing these learning agreements.
  5. By the end of the project we meet again in the same groups to discuss what happened during the semester, and how they were able to fulfil their learning agreement.

We have written a few papers on this topic and you find them here:

  1. Cajander, Å., Daniels, M., McDermott, R., & Von Konsky, B. R. (2011, January). Assessing professional skills in engineering education. Australian Computer Science Communications, vol 32, pp 73-78. (pp. 145-154). Australian Computer Society, Inc.
  2. Clear, T., McDermott, R., Parsjö, E., Cajander, Å., Daniels, M., & Lagerqvist, N. (2016, October). A framework for writing learning agreements. In Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 2016 IEEE (pp. 1-8). IEEE.
  3. Peters, A. K., Hussain, W., Cajander, A., Clear, T., & Daniels, M. (2015, July). Preparing the global software engineer. In Global Software Engineering (ICGSE), 2015 IEEE 10th International Conference on (pp. 61-70).