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Organised Chaos - Learning Outcomes from trialling Active Learning Methods in Computing Science

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Marie Devlin, Emeritus Professor Lindsay MarshallORCiD


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Active Learning in Computing is a 5 year CETL project funded by HEFCE (UK). It involves a consortium of Universities from the North West of England, comprising Durham University as project lead and Newcastle University, University of Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan University as partners. The project aims to make Computing Science group and project work realistic and relevant to industry by introducing innovative teaching methods that foster independent learning and facilitate greater student engagement with the Computing Science curriculum. As of 2008, we are approximately half-way through the project and are evaluating the impact of the active learning activities we have introduced on student learning outcomes in Undergraduate Computing Science. This paper presents a comparison of module results and student learning experiences on Newcastle’s Software Engineering module over four academic years - 2003-2007, i.e. two years before and two years after introducing active learning via a year-long cross-site project between collaborating student teams at Durham and Newcastle. In the first part of the paper we describe the module and compare the curricula and teaching approaches employed before and after active learning methods were introduced. We define our understanding and approach to active learning and outline the pedagogical philosophy that underpins it. We then give an overview of the activities and techniques we introduced during the latter two years of this study and briefly outline our experiences. In the next section of the paper we present the year-on-year results, but knowing that it is difficult to draw real conclusions from these we attempt to draw qualitative conclusions as evidenced by the freeformat responses in questionnaire returns and student reflective reports. We then use these results to evaluate the impact our change to an active learning approach has had on student learning outcomes in the module and to provide some guidance for other practitioners should they wish to introduce similar methods to their own teaching.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Devlin M, Phillips C, Marshall L

Editor(s): Várady, G.

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: International Conference in Engineering Education. New Challenges in Engineering Education and Research in the 21st Century

Year of Conference: 2008

Pages: 1-11

Publisher: Pollack Mihály Faculty of Engineering, University of Pécs

Notes: ICEE 2008. Proceedings on CD-ROM.