DEBATE: A USEFUL TOOL TO ENHANCE COMMUNICATION SKILLS IN AGRICULTURAL ENGINEERING STUDENTS
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Conference name: 15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 7-9 November, 2022
Location: Seville, Spain
Abstract:Good communication skills are highly relevant not only for progressing in a professional career but also in daily personal life. University students can improve both their oral and written communication skills by introducing new learning techniques in some courses. In this study, we present the results obtained in a debate activity performed in one academic year (2021/2022) in the course ‘Animal Nutrition’ of the Agricultural Engineering Degree at the Technical University of Madrid (Spain). A total of 69 students were enrolled in the course and they were grouped to attend either morning or afternoon lessons. Sixty-two students participated in the debate activity, as it was not-compulsory. The score of this activity accounted for 10% of the final score of the ‘Animal Nutrition’ course.
The debate activity was initially managed in Moodle. Four topics on issues related to animal production with controversial implications were proposed, and each student had to choose one of them using the ‘poll’ option in Moodle. Within each group of students (morning or afternoon classes), the number of participants in each topic was limited to 8. Three documents or web pages with scientific information on each topic were available on Moodle to be consulted, but students could also either ask the teachers for additional information or search for information by themselves.
The evaluation of the debate activity consisted of two phases. Firstly, the students participating in the same topic were divided into 2 groups (4 students/group), and each group was assigned randomly the opinion to be defended in the debate that was held in the classroom. The students discussed on the topic for about 35 minutes, and then answered the questions raised by their peers for additional 15 minutes (each topic was thus debated for 50 minutes). One teacher acted as moderator, and each student was graded by two teachers taking into account the knowledge of the topic, the precision in the language, the appropriate use of scientific/technical terms, and the ability to formulate arguments in favor or against a particular issue. The final score obtained in the oral debate was the average of the scores given by the two teachers. Secondly, a question on the debate topic was included in the written final exam of the course. Each student had to write a brief assessment (no longer than one page) defending his/her personal opinion on the topic, and giving arguments to support his/her opinion. The questions were graded by the same two teachers who evaluated the performance of the students in the oral debate. The final score of the debate activity was the average of the scores obtained in the oral debate and in the question included in the final exam.
Finally, the relationships between the scores obtained in the debate activity and those obtained in the written final exam and other activities performed by the students (lab practices, problem-solving, etc.) in the course were assessed by regression analysis.
Keywords: Innovative teaching-learning process, workshop, higher education, animal production.