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V. Estivill-Castro

Griffith University (AUSTRALIA)
The scientific exploration of how people learn resulted in the theory named Constructivism. Such theory explains how students build their understanding of the world, assembling concepts into knowledge. The main process consists of experiencing something and then reflecting on those experiences. This paper describes our experience in teaching and undergraduate course (third year) in database management system using laboratories, simulators, problem-solving tutorial session and of course lectures and recorded lectures (on-line delivery). We identified several concepts and tracked down the level of novelty of the idea and also the experience students had with it though the different learning activities in the course. We were fortunate enough that students could select several paths for their learning, in particular, some attended lectures while other only used the lecture recordings. Nevertheless, lectures included active techniques (some small experiments).

While Constructivism is typically applied to science delivery as its fundamental principles consist of analysing the current understanding and then designing an experiment to either revise the views or confirm them, we wanted to adapt this to a more technologically oriented and applied technology. In fact, our aim is to review the conceptual understanding that students have of how a database works.

A crucial learning objective if that software engineering graduates shall use their understanding of the working of a database server to produce a highly efficient design of database system that performs well for a diversity of needs and workloads.

The challenge today is that 's hard to recreate the environment in which complex database servers operate in an undergraduate course. For example, to setup a scenario where thousand of users are executing transactions concurrently. And if we did, it would be delicate to create the experiment for students to observe different effects caused by the setting of parameters. Thus, the challenge was to create experiences and active techniques to apply to the learning objectives of the course and that could be conducted in the simple setting of laboratories, workshops or lectures and within the 100-minutes duration of such sessions.

Parallel with this, we created the assessment instruments that enabled us to rank the level of attainment on a concept as per Bloom's taxonomy. We anticipated that the more experimentation and reflection we provided on a concept, the higher the level students would demonstrate.

We repeated our approach for three editions of the course. The evidence collected during these three versions demonstrate
that concrete experience is invaluable even for the lowest categories of the cognitive domain of Bloom's taxonomy. We introduced other elements, like authentic assessment, but it seems particularly clear that the concrete experience is the most relevant component in students being able to progress in the ladder describe by Bloom's taxonomy.