AN ECTS EXPERIENCE IN SOPHOMORE PROGRAMMING COURSES IN THE UNIVERSITY OF MÁLAGA
Universidad de Málaga (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Conference name: 4th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 8-10 March, 2010
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:We report the experiences obtained from using during the last two years an ECTS-oriented teaching model in two 2nd-year programming subjects of computer-science (CS) degrees in the Universidad de Málaga (UMA). The subjects considered are Abstract Data Types and Analysis and Design of Algorithms, two core subjects of the three CS degrees imparted in the UMA. Both subjects include theoretical, applied and lab components, hence requiring a combination of teaching methodologies including plenary lessons, problem-solving sessions, and hands-on computer sessions.
The teaching strategies are student-centric and adapted to the ECTS framework, in which the satisfactory completion of a subject amounts to successfully acquiring certain skills and competencies. We have considered two interconnected aspects: the teaching plan (i.e., the learning path the students are subject to), and the assessment criteria used to quantify the successful completion of the course. Regarding the former, one of the pillars of the plan is trying to boost autonomous (individual and in group) work by the students. Instrumental topics and analytical tools are introduced earlier so as to place the student in disposition to embark in practical tasks as soon as possible. As to the assessment issue, the competence-based structure of subjects lends itself very well to a continuous assessment strategy. Thus, the grade is obtained by the outcome of numerous activities during the semester (rather than by a single exam). These activities include performance tests (both written and computer-based) focused on specific portions of the syllabus, as well as attitudinal non-performance-based activities. The latter are intended to further stimulate the involvement of the student in the subject, as well as to promoting autonomous work. Thus, problem-solving sessions are organized as a participative forum in which students present their solutions to a specific problem at hand, and the role of the teacher is simply overseeing the validity of those solutions and clarifying doubts. Participating in these sessions is thus an exercise in active learning. Likewise, active learning is encouraged via individual home assignments (e.g., providing a formal specification of an unusual data type, or applying a certain algorithmic technique to a problem and obtain empirical results), and carrying out a group-oriented task (typically involving bibliographical research). Although these activities are not performance-based, they indirectly place the student in a better position to obtain good marks in performance tests due to the implied work and study of the subject material.
The final grade is the sum of performance and attitudinal qualifications. This sum can exceed 100%, and hence non-performance-based activities are regarded as an opportunity to increase the grade, rather than as a requirement not to see it decreased. Students who do not manage to obtain a high enough grade by the end of the semester have the possibility of a final overall exam whose grading is weighted and added to the course grade (the final exam being 40% of the final grade). Since the course grade is even in this case a major part of the final grade, the student attempts to maximize it and keeps working on the subject even if by the middle or end of the semester he/she realizes his/her grade is likely to fall short. The academic results obtained indicate a notorious improvement in passing rates and final grades.
Keywords: Programming, ECTS, Teaching Strategies.