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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



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 free-format 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

Publication type: Report

Publication status: Published

Series Title: School of Computing Science Technical Report Series

Year: 2008

Pages: 14

Print publication date: 01/07/2008

Source Publication Date: July 2008

Report Number: 1110

Institution: School of Computing Science, University of Newcastle upon Tyne

Place Published: Newcastle upon Tyne