Presenting Pedagogic Development Work at the National Network and Development Conference 2018

In October I will go to Västerås to participate in the NU2018 conference. This is a conference for faculty at universites and in higher education. The idea is to be inspired and learn from others while networking with peers. I have been to NU a few times, and it is really a nice and welcoming conference.

This time I will be presenting a pedagogic development project that Mats Daniels and I have run together with Nanna Kjellin Lagerqvist and Elin Parsjö who were students when the project was running. Below is a Google translated abstract:

 

Educational challenges related to the development of professional skills – Experience from an educational development project

 

Abstract

In addition to cognitive and technical skills, a number of professional skills are required, such as communication skills, creative thinking, reflection skills and intercultural skills, in order to successfully participate in the increasingly global labor market. The overall purpose of our development project was therefore to develop a framework for supporting the development of professional skills in project courses. The framework that the project resulted in consists of three parts. The first part is a structure for working with learning agreements [1]. Part two consists of a method called the Archetype Learning Method [2] and the third part of the framework is a first version of an ICT tool [1] where resources for working with the development of professional skills have been gathered.

The methods within the framework have proven to be promising to convey what it means to develop professional skills. However, they are not a universal method of setting up a functioning educational environment to develop competencies, but the tool meets some resistance from the students. One contributing factor is that education for developing skills is a complex area, where factors such as the students’ identity and expectations of what is important to learn is recording. Examples of such attitudes and expectations are that factual knowledge and technical knowledge in programming, databases and networks are seen as more central. Our analysis is that there are factors beyond a single course, in the learning environment of the education program, which limits the possibilities for the effective use of learning agreements in the form we used in this project [3].

How, then, can a better education environment be created so that students can achieve the professional skills they meet according to the goals our education programs actually have? We have observed a discrepancy between the students’ aspirations and behaviors, which according to our studies include depends on the attitude mentioned above [3-4], as well as an ovana and inability to handle the transparency of this learning [5]. Ability to handle openness, including in terms of being able to handle open problems is an important aspect of mastery of professional skills, since the practice of limiting and closing openness causes complex problems to be reduced to, possibly complicated, but, simplified problems, where most essential skills for most professional skills are lost. I [5] presents a categorization of openness that can be used to systematically introduce development of the ability to handle open issues and thus pave the way for the development of other professional skills.

Another observation is that students are unfamiliar in learning that is not clearly measurable. The use of learning contracts is a step towards creating a better understanding of how learning of something as complex as competencies can be “measured”. However, there is a general mistrust of what is not perceived as the core of an education, that is, what can be termed pure subject knowledge [6]. Progression in dealing with open problems is an important component for the development of professional skills and thus a better ability to utilize subject knowledge in complex situations in a future working life. This progression needs to be better integrated into our education!

references

[1] Clear, T., Daniels, M., Cajander, Å., Parsjö, E., Lagerqvist, N., and McDermott, R. (2016) A Framework for Writing Personal Learning Agreements, ASEE / IEEE Frontiers in Education , Eire, USA.

[2] Pears, A., Daniels, M., and Cajander, Å. (2017) The Archetype Learning Method – Scaffolding Teamwork Competences in the Engineering Classroom, ASEE / IEEE Frontiers in Education, Indianapolis, USA.

[3] Cajander, A., Daniels, M., Golay, D., McDermott, R., Moll, J., Nylén, A., Pears, A., and Peters, A. (2017) Unexpected Student Behavior and Learning Opportunities – Using Critical Incident Analysis and a Model for Understanding Students’ Behavior, ASEE / IEEE Frontiers in Education, Indianapolis, USA.

[4] Nylén, A., Cajander, Å., Daniels, M., Pears, A., and McDermott, R. (2017) Why are we here? Student Perspectives on the Goal of STEM Higher Education, ASEE / IEEE Frontiers in Education, Indianapolis, USA.

[5] Nylén, A., Daniels, M., and Isomottonen, V. (2017) Open-ended Projects Opened Up – Aspects of Openness, ASEE / IEEE Frontiers in Education, Indianapolis, USA.

[6] Peters, A-K. (2017). Learning Computing at University: Participation and Identity: A Longitudinal Study. (Doctoral dissertation, Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis).