Home Forums PBL for Software Engineering Software Engineering Meets Problem-Based Learning

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    Dimitris TarasisDimitris Tarasis

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    management, software engineering, databases, network security and client-server programming. Each student documents their individual journey of discovery in the form of a reflective journal in which they note facts, opinions and detailed considerations. Teams of four students are formed. Team members are selected so that academically weaker students will gain the advantage of working with their academically stronger peers. A modular software project is assigned to each group. A typical project might be the development of a complete E-commerce web site or the development of an email access portal. Course Duration 12 weeks Contact time with mentors 4 hours per week Independent learner study time 4 hours per week Total available project time for each team 384 hours Table 1: Breakdown of course times The course is presented based on what we call Pairwise Mentoring, where two mentors present the course in tandem. Table 1 explains the breakdown of group project time. The weekly contact time with mentors is concentrated in a single half-day session to give the students a relatively long period of uninterrupted time to work together and to provide them with an opportunity to meet the clients (mentors) under controlled conditions. Attendance is compulsory for the first hour, after which the students are free to choose a location that best suits their current software process activity. The mentors exploit the compulsory hour to guide students in core issues, such as project management, how to run meetings and analysis of progress made. In summary, therefore, the core principles of PBL are [3]: ∑ Learning takes place within the context of authentic tasks, issues, and problems that are aligned with real-world concerns; ∑ In a PBL course, students and the instructor become co-learners, co-planners, co-producers, and co-evaluators; ∑ The PBL approach stimulates students to take responsibility for their own learning, since there are few lectures and no structured sequence of assigned readings; ∑ PBL fosters collaboration among students, stresses the development of problem solving skills within the context of professional practice, promotes effective reasoning, and is aimed at increasing motivation for life-long learning. Assessment Assessment of small group PBL projects is a challenge, particularly where the individual contribution of each student must be graded. The PBL paradigm stresses the importance of assessment and that pure team-based assessment might be a disadvantage to the stronger New Knowledge and Skills Current Student Knowledge Software Engineering Activities Team Work Lecturer and peer support Reading Resources Figure 1: Students build on their existing knowledge by being challenged by new software engineering activities.
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    students and equally be abused by weaker students. The authors therefore implemented a mixture of team and individual assessment techniques, assigning 70% of the marks for group work and 30% for individual work. The assessment procedure aimed to assess three groups of skills. To assess each skills group, various assessment techniques were employed and staff members other than the mentors were involved. The skill groups and assessment techniques can be summarised as follows: 1. Implementation skills: ability to implement a software design specification and to produce software documentation based on best practice. The assessment was based on the delivered product and relevant documentation (30% of final mark). 2. Teamwork and leadership skills: ability to operate in a team environment – how they contribute to the team, how they organise the team and assign roles and responsibilities and how they integrate any industrial experience with their theoretical knowledge. The assessment was based on a group presentation and individual interview (40% of final mark). 3. Analytical thinking, problem solving and inter-personal skills: ability to think through a problem, analyse a situation, deal with pressure and communicate with the clients. The assessment was based on an individual reflective journal and feedback forms (peer and self evaluation forms) (30% of final mark).

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