SKILLS ACADEMY: A PILOT EXPERIENCE USING COLLABORATIVE AND PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING TO DEVELOP SKILLS

L. Faria, C. Lisboa, J. Proença

Universidade Europeia (PORTUGAL)
The Bologna Process (1999) aimed to create a European Higher Education Area in order to standardize teaching and learning processes, establishing a set of guidelines that encourage active learning, based on students' centrality and development of their competencies (Fernandes, 2010; Kellermann, 2007). Skills are a result of the learning process and represent a dynamic combination of knowledge, understanding, abilities, being obtained or developed during the learning process by the student (Tuning, 2002), in a formal and informal learning context, and may be of a technical, instrumental, interpersonal and systemic nature.

It is considered necessary to use different methods to help students achieve these skills. The collaborative and problem-based learning are (two of several) active learning methodologies, in which the educational process focuses on the student (Bonwell & Eison, 1991). Collaborative learning is based mainly on the formation of heterogeneous groups, where interdependence, leadership and shared mutual responsibility prevail (Golub, 1988; Toopping, 2007). In this context, it is expected that learning occurs as an effect of interaction between peers working in an environment where theoretical, technical and social interdependencies are developed for solving problems or performing tasks. It is also a process of social learning, since the exchange of ideas with other people develops the social and communication skills, the affective functioning, the flexibility of thought and, deepens the knowledge (Santrock, 2008; Woolfolk, 2007). In turn, Problem-based learning aims to confront students with a specific problem, identical to those they may encounter in the different arenas of their life, whether personal, professional, social or citizenship. In general, students work in groups, trying to identify the information they have and what they need to research and learn to solve this problem.

This study presents the pilot project of the Skills Academy of the Europeia University, which aims to support groups of students selected for their abilities and the potential to develop personal, social and ethical skills, transversal throughout the entire training course, and adjusted to current labor market needs. The Skills Academy project is structured and implemented through the implementation of Student Clubs. Student clubs are students' projects for students, developed and made up of students from different fields of scientific training, but with similar interests and levels of development. Each club is created, organized and managed by the students themselves, under the coordination of the Skills Academy structure, which supports, shapes and networks the different club elements.

The paper presents the concept and implementation of the project, first at FEP- Porto University and then its application and development at the Europeia University through Clubs. We analyze the missions, visions and values of the Clubs, as well as the main results in terms of the acquisition and development of competences by the students, using semi-structured interviews with the leaders of each Club, analyzed through content analysis. Next, the paper discusses the implications of this type of structures in the learning process and in the development of the skills of the students of higher education. Finally, we present the contributions of the research, its main limitations and future research routes.