Except for cognitive and technical skills, a number of professional competencies are needed to be able who work in a global job market. Some examples of such professional competencies are communication skills, creative thinking, reflection skills and intercultural competence. More work is needed, though, on understanding and spread how such professional competencies can be developed in project courses. The overarching goal of our development project was therefore to develop a framework for scaffolding the development of professional competencies..
The framework is based on working with open problems in project courses where students are given the freedom to define and drive the work themselves, and highlight aspects like progression and measurability, as well as support, including support from other students, in skills development. This by giving examples of different forms of support for students in their learning, but also for teachers to design learning environments suitable for the development of competencies. The idea is that the framework will be able to function in a variety of ways and in different roles and aims at an increased understanding of how active student participation can contribute to better learning environments for students.
The project is based on previous work with a project course, IT in society. In this work, a guiding principle has been that it is essential for the motivation that the development of competencies exists in a context relevant to the students, in this particular case, an international collaboration on IT use in a complex reality-based project in health care. However, the skills as such are often of a general nature and lessons learned from this context are useful for the development of competencies also in other contexts. The focus of this project is the use of learning agreements with reflections and student feedback. In the work we have developed a number of personas for different types of students and a prototype of a Wikipedia-like platform to collect resources intended for student development of professional skills. These resources are developed for the course IT in society, but are useful as inspiration for university teachers and trainers regarding methods of working with skills development through active student participation in project courses.
In addition to inspiring, we also want to consciously raise the resistance we noted to take the development of these skills seriously. The latter is related to the work of Anne Peters as a PhD student in UpCERG (Uppsala Computing Education Research Group). exemplified in her dissertation (Peters, 2017). In this report we first give a brief presentation of the main work carried out in the project, followed by a presentation of the results the work generated. The report ends with an attachment with publications, and a discussion and summary including future work.
Next semester Diane Golay and I are teaching a new course called “Complex IT systems in Large Organisations” as a part of the IT, DV and STS programmes at Uppsala University. The majority of the students are from the IT programmes, and around 35 students have signed up to join this new course.
The course description is as follows:
Complexity problems that arise in large organizations where different user groups have different requirements. Development and implementation of IT solutions with multiple interoperable systems and management of the effects of prolonged continuous updates and maintenance of such systems.
The learning outcomes of the course are related to describing challenges and problems that arise in connection with the development and introduction of IT systems in large organizations, and methods to deal with these. Students should also be able to discuss advantages, disadvantages and applicability of a method in a specified problem situation. Moreover, they should be able to propose appropriate IT solution for a given problem situation and motivate and discuss the solution.
Last week we started off the work with the course and had a workshop with a few of our colleagues to get ideas for the set up. We have also booked meetings every other week the coming weeks to plan the course, so that we are prepared when it starts in week 12.
The course is indeed very close to many of the HTO research groups projects, and we will make use of our own research material as course material. We will probably also do interviews with people from industry as a part of the course. It will indeed be great fun to develop this course and the course content!
Students who are reading about this course are welcome to apply to it!
If you work with “Complex IT in Large Organisations” and would be OK with being interviewed about your job (on Skype or IRL) please send me or Diane Golay a mail!
My philosophy regarding supervision is to coach depending on background, motivation, and current situation of the person, and to come up with a joint model about how to go forward. This way of thinking is inspired by Vygotsky´s zone of proximal development. I also actively seek to use a situated view of leadership and try to see my students as individuals, and adapt my leadership based on the personal characteristics of the student, knowledge, situation and context. When problems occur, I try to discuss them with the student as soon as possible to collaborately find a good solution.
I often use strategies borrowed from the area of coaching in my supervision (I have been a coach as a part of my research projects, see Cajander et al 2010). As a part of this I avoid coming up with advice such as “you should now do XY & Z”, but rather try to coach the student to come up with their own solutions. I am completely convinced that I cannot know what would be the best solution or approach for them since research is complex, and I never have the full picture like they do. However, there are situations related to the research quality, for example, where the supervisors might indeed know possible ways forward that are unknown to the PhD or master student. Such areas might for example include where to find relevant literature or where to publish. Finally, my supervision is based on the growth mindset which is shortly described as “I/you don’t know this YET”, and I often talk about this mindset in relation to grit with my PhD students.
Master and bachelor students doing their thesis work in connection to my research are invited to participate in research projects, and are included in the conferences arranged etc. if they want to. I think that it is an important learning experience to be a part of the team in the project. Some of the students have indeed done wonderful work that has resulted in publications such as for example:
- Kristinsdottir, S., Larusdottir, M., & Cajander, Å. (2016, August). Responsibilities and Challenges of Product Owners at Spotify-An Exploratory Case Study. In International Conference on Human-Centred Software Engineering (pp. 3-16). Springer International Publishing.
- Larusdottir, M. K., Cajander, Å., & Simader, M. (2014, September). Continuous Improvement in Agile Development Practice. In International Conference on Human-Centred Software Engineering (pp. 57-72). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg
- Jia, Y., Larusdottir, M., & Cajander, Å. (2012). The usage of usability techniques in scrum projects. Human-Centered Software Engineering, 331-341.
Other students have also won awards for being the best students, such as Viktor Kjellman and Johan Andersson and their master thesis on “Patient Empowerment and User Experience in eHealth Services: A Design-Oriented Study of eHealth Services in Uppsala” as in the blog post picture!
Vitalis is an important venue for innovators, business and reseracher in eHealth, and brings together 4,500 participants. Next Vitalis takes place 24-26 April 2018 in Gothenburg, and last week the students from the IT in Society class submitted a proposal for a presentation at the conference.
The students will present their research on how health care can improve and become more efficient using tracking technology. I would suspect that it is not as easy as tracking in the snow, as in this blog post’s photo, however.
The students are doing extensive research on the topic this semester, with interviews field studies and literature reviews and studies to industries who have used tracking systems in their organizations to become more efficient.
The students will present their work around Christmas for Region Uppsala, and let’s hope that they are accepted to the conference so that knowledge and insights from their great work has a chance to spread!
Communication and PR are an important part of innovation and change. People use social media and Wikipedia to understand reality to a large extent. Through these channels we create the truths. (Or alternative truths :-o). Hopefully in parallel with other more traditional media channels. Even though communication and PR are very important for success, there are very few courses in the IT related programs at the university level that deal with this.
The students in the IT in society class has always marketed their work with an invitation to their presentation the final week, but this year we have put a more explicit focus on communication and marketing of their work.
They have one group of students who will work with communication and PR. It will be interesting to see what they choose to do! It will also be interesting to see what effects this will have on how known the course is, and how well they manage to communicate the results to media, other students, county councils etc.
We know that the students will submit an abstract to Vitalis and if they are accepted a few of them will go there and present in April. Last year the students did a fabulous job presenting at Vitalis 🙂
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:
- Collaborate in a large project with an external client, and present a professional solution, both orally and in written form to the client.
- Handle, validate and analyse a very complex and multi-facetted problem in a constructive manner in a project group.
- Evaluate, criticize and validate solutions to IT-related problems from perspectives such as ethics, sustainable development, work environment, economy and usefulness.
- Illustrate, show and describe experiences from working in a multi-cultural distributed project.
- 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:
- 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.
- Second, we have a workshop with the students where they write their own personal learning agreement. These learning agreements should include
- Why they have chosen three specified competencies to work with during the course.
- What they will do to develop their confidence in the three areas.
- How they will know that they have improved. And how faculty can know that they have improved.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
I spent the last week in Bologna at the ITiCSE 2017 conference. This is one of the computer science education conferences that I usually try to attend. It is quite a small conference, and the papers normally have high quality. It’s indeed a nice community and a conference with a great atmosphere. Someone said that the reject rate this year was around 70% so those who present have usually done good studies. There were indeed many nice discussions at the conference, and I made a few new acquaintances who do research related to my area.
One of the coming years I will have a look at the working groups at ITiCSE and participate in one. They seem to do really good work in interesting areas, and some people spend most of the time at the conference attending these working groups that result in publications related to computer science education and often long lasting collaboration groups. Seems awsome!
I attended a workshop about education in the new economy system this week. It was a very well organised workshop with representatives from all stakeholder groups involved in the education of the system. The discussion was facilitated by a workshop leader, and we discussed who would get education and and what the education should contain.
The workshop started with a presentation by me and Annika Björklund from the local Ladok project. I presented some general ideas from a study I did on economical staff and IT a few years ago, and Annika presented the ideas they are working with in relation to the Ladok project.
Annika has asked users what they want from education, and they said what is found in this slide:
- Local support. How do we solve that?
- Screen sharing with the support people
- Courses that go deep into topics
- Workshops where it’s possible to discuss your day to day problems with an expert.
I am very much looking forward to following this project. One part of the project will be rolled out in October, and the rest later on next spring.
During my PhD studies we did a very interesting study on how system developers understand and experience usability methods. The paper was written by Elina Eriksson, Jan Gulliksen and me and it gives some answers to interesting questions.
This paper was one of the hardest papers to publish, mostly due to the use of several methods for data collection which is a bit non-traditional. However, after a few submissions and re-submissions it ended up being a paper well worth reading. You find the paper here:
The paper’s abstract:
How do you do usability work when no usability expertise is available? What happens in an organization when system developers, with no previous HCI knowledge, after a 3-day course, start applying usability methods, and particularly field studies?
In order to answer these questions qualitative data were gathered through participatory observations, a feed back survey, field study documentation and interviews from 47 system developers from a public authority.
Our results suggest that field studies enhance the developer’s understanding of the user perspective, and provide a more holistic overview of the use situation, but that some developers were unable to interpret their observations and see solutions to the users’ problems. The field study method was very much appreciated and has now become standard operating procedure within the organization.
However, although field studies may be useful, it does not replace the need for usability pro fessionals, as their knowledge is essential for more complex observations, analysis and for keeping the focus on usability.
There are researchers such as Angela Duckworth who argue that success is more about effort and a fighting spirit than it is about talent, genius or any other predictor such as health or looks. Her research shows that this particular fighting spirit called “grit” is more important to success than talent. She has done a very interesting Ted talk on the topic that can be found on her home page, here. Recommended! There was also a recent radio program in Swedish on the topic, and Angela Duckworth is interviewed on the show. You find the Swedish show here.
One way of helping students, or yourself, attain more grit is to aim for the “Growth mindset” developed by Carol Dweck and others. A key word in this way of thinking is the word YET, and that even though you don’t know everything you have the possibility to learn. Carol Dweck has also done a very insipiring Ted Talk about this found here.
In short the Growth Mindset as presented by Carol Dweck includes the following key elements or ways of thinking:
- We can all get smarter. Abilities can develop.
- We know what efforts make us better, and we are aware of what we can do to practice.
- We put in extra time and effort when we want to achieve things since we know this will pay off.
- We focus on the learning process, and not the end results. Focus on the “I’m not there YET, but I will reach there”.
The opposite of having the growth mindset is a fixed mindset where you believe that basic qualities or skills such as intelligence or talent, are fixed traits. With this mindset you also believe that talend alone will create success and for those who are gifted success comes without any effort at all. They’re wrong, and this mind set does not help you much.
Note! In the context of the fixed mindset it should be noted that there is a gender issue with the fixed mind set. Studies by Ann-Sofie Nyström have investigated why boys have a tendency to believe that “Smart students get perfect scores without studying much” and there is a norm that the best boy should be an effortless achiever.
Our Study on Conscientiousness, Grit and Programming Achievement
In a study that was published at the 2015 ITiCSE conference we tried to find correlations between conscientiousness, grit and programming achievement. The study was driven by Roger McDermott, and Mats Daniels and I collaborted with Roger McDermott on writing it up. Our study did find weak but significant correlations between conscientiousness, grit and programming achievement and from the study one can draw the tentative conclusion that having a fighting spirit and not give up is a key success factor in computer science and that we need to provide learning opportunities for our students to practice.
We investigate the link between concepts of perseverance such as conscientiousness, tenacity, and grit, and the academic attainment of first year computing students. We give a review of the role that perseverance plays in learning models as well as describing the role of conscientiousness in the Five Factor Model of personality. We outline research that links this trait with academic success before focussing on recent, narrower conceptualisations of perseverance such as academic tenacity and grit. We describe one of the questionnaire tools that have been used to assess one such aspect of perseverance. We give details of an investigation that looked for correlations between student responses to Duckworth’s Grit Survey, the Big Five Inventory (BFI) Personality Survey and summative attainment scores in a first year programming course. The results suggest a weak but significant correlation between conscientiousness, grit and programming achievement. We discuss these results as well as the limitations of the method used. Finally, we make some observations about the importance of these concepts in Computer Science education and outline further work in this area.