IMPACT OF TEACHING PLANNING IN THE ACADEMIC RESULTS OF STUDENTS: A STUDY CASE
With the introduction of the European Higher Education Space (EHES), students at University must follow a continuous evaluation process where several different activities are planned. Typically, each subject includes between one or two written exams and between two and six exercises or practices which students must develop alone or in groups. On the other hand, one academic year includes, typically, ten subjects. Thus, in total, a standard student in a regular academic year must develop around fifteen written exams and forty-five exercises and practices. Considering a regular academic year, i.e. twenty-four working weeks, students must face one exam each two weeks and two exercises per week.
In order to organize all these activities different strategies can be deployed. The most obvious is the most common too: each professor schedules the activities and exams related to his subject without considering any other constraint. This approach guarantees each activity, in the context of the subject, occurs in the most coherent and appropriate moment. However, this solution also causes the activities and exams to get accumulated during certain periods (such as the end of the term or the middle-term, usually). A second approach, sometimes employed, consists of the head of studies to organize all activities (typically per course), so all of them are (more or less) homogenously distributes along all the available weeks. This approach may consider both, constrains related to subject planning and students’ availability, and usually information technologies are employed to optimize all variables. Finally, some professors allow students to propose different dates for the different activities, so they can organize their own academic year. This approach is the most complicated to manage, as students usually show great problems to arrange dates.
In order to select the most appropriate scheduling strategy, reasons related to infrastructures or regulation are employed. However, informal observations seem to show the selected strategy has an impact in the academic results of students. To address this situation, we propose developing a pilot experience in order to study the impact of the scheduling strategy in the students’ academic results.
In particular, during the second term of the year 2018/19 in the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, a pilot experience has been conducted, based on the creation of different groups where different scheduling strategies where developed and validated. Basically, three different groups where created: the first group assessed the current curricula schedule created by the head of studies. The second group got different schedule planning, one per subject, which were not coordinated. Finally, the third group designed their own schedule according to their workload and context. The experience was developed in the context of Telecommunication engineering degree. Students from all specialties were considered, although software engineers were the most important group.
Results showed a double effect. First, although students felt more motivated organizing their own schedule, an analysis of these schedules determines lack of consistency in lesson distribution and required previous knowledge, and therefore, a possible worse curricular performance. Second, they value much more schedules which guarantee the coherence of subjects than schedules focused on creating a homogenous distribution of actives along the year.