V. Benigno, C. Fante

Over the last 20 years, university education has undergone great innovation, starting with the reforms of the Declaration of Bologna (1999). A key concept in the new educational agenda is that of “competence”. One of the main goals of a course of studies is that at the end of the course each student should achieve certain specific learning outcomes and develop competencies, considered as a dynamic combination of knowledge, understanding and abilities which are useful for their personal and professional future.

Two groups of competencies were identified discipline-specific, general and transferable.

The general and transferable competencies include:
• Instrumental competencies: cognitive abilities (the capacity for understanding and manipulating ideas), methodological, technological and linguistic skills;
• Interpersonal competencies: all those skills which favor social interaction and collaboration, such as being able to express one’s own opinions, work in a group, express critical opinions;
• Systemic competencies: skills pertaining to the interaction between understanding and knowledge, such as the ability to apply what one has learnt, to generate new ideas, to adapt to new situations.

Clearly, competencies are difficult to pursue in traditional educational contexts, where the face-to-face lesson focused on delivery of content is still the preferred approach. Competence acquisition, in fact, requires the implementation of innovative educational approaches, where students can tackle real problems, discuss things together, share the responsibility of choices, and experience differing points of view.

In this context, the use of CSCL, considered as a learning environment which integrates various activities and individual and group participation, plays a strategic role in the acquisition of both technical and reflective skills, since it requires students’ active, informed participation (Dillenburg et al, 2009; Gikandi et al., 2011).

A didactic model was developed based on these considerations, and it was used in a university course which constitutes the theoretical and methodological frame of this study.

The course in a blended approach was planned and developed for the Laboratory of “Psychological Testing” for students attending the Faculty of Psychology at Genoa University. The aim of the laboratory is an acquisition of knowledge and competencies with relation to some of the main tests used in psychologists’ professional practice.

The training course is based on a model with recurrent cyclic activities proposed in both face-to-face and distances modes, asynchronous and mediated by a Moodle platform (face-to-face activities  distance activities  face-to-face activities).
The aim of the study was to assess the technical and reflective skills acquired by the students by means of an exploratory investigation of some products they were asked to produce during the distance activities.

The spontaneous productions of the students were analyzed in the original language using T-LAB software (Lancia, 2004).

Analysis of the results suggests that the didactic approach adopted allowed the acquisition of a more notional and standard knowledge, a deeper, more reasoned knowledge, and greater reflective and critical skills.