A BASIC BUT POWERFUL TECHNIQUE FOR STUDENTS’ EFFECTIVE COOPERATIVE WORKING
Training students in professional competences, such as effective communication skills or teamworking, has become almost mandatory with the emergence of the new European Space of Higher Education. The goal of this new tendency is to increase opportunities for employment of graduated students. One of the professional skills most demanded by companies nowadays is teamworking. Therefore, it becomes necessary to create new trenching methodologies and activities that allow students to learn how to work effectively as a team. Typical teamworking methodologies can be difficult to find for certain subjects, such as basic computer programming, where because of either of the size of the work to be done or the own nature of the subject. In basic computer programming subjects, the typical teamworking scenario is two students sit in front of a single computer with a single keyboard. In this case, one student types and the other remains quiet, in the best case.
Therefore, students perceive teamworking as something that decreases their productivity instead of increasing it. They might be more productive if they work individually. This negative perception of teamwoking makes students reluctant to learn how to work in teams. Therefore, the first issue we should to show students is that teamworking can be positive when it is correctly used.
To solve this situation, this paper presents a methodology for teamworking, called "the devil's advocate", based on well-known team management techniques, which can be used for effective cooperative working in this situation. This technique is based on creating pair of students, who divide a task in several steps, each one individually affordable. For each phase, one student does the work, and then, the other student plays the role of “the devil’s advocate”, providing criticisms in order to improve the results. In the next phase, the students change their roles, and so on until completing the work. In this way, students can work cooperatively but without having to meet physically, in a more independent way. Due to the criticisms, the obtained results are better than the results that had been obtained if the students worked at the individual level. Therefore, students perceive teamworking as something positive, motivating them to learn effective teamworking techniques.
This technique has been successfully used for a Data Structures course and it is currently being applied in a Software Engineering course.