IMPROVING UNIVERSITY STUDENT COMPETENCIES THROUGH CHANGE IN PRACTICAL CLASSES
In a society characterised by technological development and the consideration of knowledge as a key resource, we find a workplace that is being transformed at great speed, calling for the constant updating of new professionals (Agudo, 2010; Quinn, 2002; Sáez, 2005, 2007; Salgado & Moscoso, 2008; Serradell & Juan, 2003; Vilaseca, Torrent & Díaz, 2002).
Universities, being responsible for higher education, cannot stand on the side-line of these changes but must seek an ever greater adjustment between the product and social demand (De la Torre, 2009). Convergence towards the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) involved, among other issues, the use of a new methodology understood as a tool of change, in order to replace traditional academic content with vocational content focusing on the development of competencies and skills adapted to the new times (Valle, 2014).
The new education paradigm focuses attention on learning and on students, entails a new structure, and reviews learning goals in terms of competencies. The content of each degree is modified, at the same time as the understanding of teaching, the methodologies used, assessment models, etc. (Mas, 2011).
New degrees – due to their vocationalisation bias – constitute an opportunity to improve the quality of initial training (Coiduras, Gervais & Correa, 2009). Within each subject, engagement in practical classes requires learning strategies that culminate in the Final Project (FP) and emphasis is placed on a more active, constructive and collaborative student profile as regards their own learning (Gairín, 2006).
This project stems from the observation and needs analysis performed by a group of lecturers on different degree courses (Degree in Primary School Teacher Training, Degree in Early Childhood Teacher Training, and the Degree in Psychology). This analysis detected a series of shortcomings among students which are: a lack of knowledge resources; inefficiency in bibliographic search; incorrect use of documentary sources; and, especially, academic plagiarism; which do not seem to correct themselves over the various courses.
Along these lines, the main aim of this study was to improve the practical classes carried out in each subject, by changing the focus and content, and aiming for greater adjustment between the theory and its subsequent implementation in practice.
The results indicate this has led to the development, by students, of certain competencies: instrumental (organisational skills; analysis and synthesis; information management, etc.), personal and interpersonal (communication skills; capacity for teamwork; critical thinking, etc.), and systemic (autonomous learning; knowledge of available resources, etc.).