M. Leiva-Brondo, J. Cebolla-Cornejo, R.M. Peiró, A.M. Pérez-de-Castro

Universitat Politècnica de València (SPAIN)
Collaborative or group work in higher education is a common teaching strategy for all kind of subjects, especially in groups with a high number of students. At the same time, outcome based education is becoming a higher priority in University programs mainly due to accreditation systems that are nearly compulsory in western countries. Soft or transversal skills are some of the most difficult outcomes to assess in university programs and normally they are not considered in the subjects of the program. The main consequence of this fact is that teaching efforts are more focused on developing professional skills than soft skills. Soft skills are supposed to be already mastered by the students or are supposed to be acquired by their own. But, as accreditation agencies and governmental institutions state, soft skills must be developed and taught through the higher education program. Moreover, companies in their recruitment programs base their decisions more in the soft skills of the candidate than in his/her professional skills level. By all these reasons, a higher education program should develop a strategy to develop soft skills through the whole program. This strategy should define the softs skills to be taught, their teaching and assessment system and the coordination the process. In Universitat Politècnica de València (Spain), an institutional initiative has been developed for soft skills teaching in all the programs of the University. The program selected 13 soft skills to be developed, and currently coordinates the process through the different subjects of each program and provides teaching tools for the teachers and at the same time develops lectures to train teachers in soft skills teaching. In our case, we develop an assessment system for the soft skill “knowledge of contemporary issues” for first year students of Biotechnology degree of General Genetics subject. The teaching tool used was collaborative work combined with on-line tools to elaborate and submit their results. Each group had to elaborate a presentation related to a current topic of genetics. The presentation was recorded as a screencast and submitted for its assessment. Self, peer and teacher assessment was used to evaluate the presentations. Previously, provided rubrics were used to assess the presentations and collaborative work. The system was used during two different years with more than 100 students each year. English or Spanish as medium of instruction was used. The collaborative work was done by the students outside the classroom and on-line tools were used to control the process. All assessment events were done also on-line with a Sakai-based program. Surveys were done to get students opinion of the process. Students submitted their presentations on time and the level of all the presentations was quite high. Collaborative Work was used by the students and on-line tools were suitable for the purpose. Although more data is needed with more students and different years or different subjects, results show that the use of collaborative work is suitable to develop and assess contemporary issue knowledge. Modifications should be done to improve the results but satisfactory results were obtained with high number of students groups.