A new teaching methodology gives students the skills companies require
Cristina G. Pedraz/DICYT When an graduate enters the labour market he/she is required to have acquired not only precise knowledge in his field but also a series of skills that have generally not been worked on during his/her university studies. These include the capacity to solve problems under uncertain conditions, creativity, independent work and self-study, social skills such as empathy or the capacity to negotiate, leadership capacity, decision-making, and organisational and planning skills.
With the objective of training students better in these key skills for companies, the lecturer of the School of Industrial Engineering of the University of Valladolid (UVA) Pedro Sanz has developed the innovative teaching methodology known as Seminars for Collaborative and Competitive Independent Learning (Seminarios de Aprendizaje Autónomo Colaborativo y Competitivo, SACC). This methodology has been successfully tested on various Industrial Engineering subjects and also on those of Medicine, Sociology, Law, and History.
“While in pre-school and primary education these skills are worked on, over time education becomes orientated towards master classes in which a teacher explains the theory and the students have to work on it. The idea of the SACC methodology is to combine three learning styles in the classroom: for students to work independently, as part of a team, and for the various teams to compete. It is above all a case of working on skills at the same time as knowledge is acquired; these skills are proposed by the European Higher Education Space (EHES)”, the lecturer points out.
The methodology has three development stages. For it to develop successfully it is essential to provide the students with initial training. According to Sanz, when the students know and understand what they are going to do and why, their participation improves considerably; this is also the case when previous work is carried out on certain skills and the use of ICT tools.
Organising the seminars
The second stage of development is the organising of the seminars. In this stage the first thing is preparation in advance with the selection of backup material (scientific articles, news, blogs, videos, images, etc. on a specific theme). The lecturer will prepare a series of questions to analyse the material that the students will have to answer as a group as from that documentation and their experience.
They are then given a problem that they will have to solve outside the classroom, searching for additional information in order to do so efficiently. Each student seeks part of the information independently and the group then has to pool it, synthesise it, give an answer, and at the following meeting compete against the other groups. Each student in the group is allocated a role (spokesperson, moderator, secretary, etc.) that changes with each session and helps him/her to work on different skills.
In the last session the spokesperson of each group presents the agreed solution to the tutor and the remainder of the teams together with the main reasons that has led it to its final decision, the advantages of this choice, the disadvantages, etc. Then there is a constructive discussion between the different groups and finally a synthesis is generated of everything that has been learnt during the solving of the problem.
At the end of the process the lecturer proposes a brief test to assess what each student has learnt during the seminar, to what extent he/she has developed different skills, and finally the assessment the students give to the methodology and their own performance.
The SACC methodology has been developed as from three innovative teaching projects of the University of Valladolid. During the first (2009-2010) the suitability of the methodology was confirmed together with the possibilities of its being extended to other areas of knowledge besides engineering. During the second (2011-2012) the management of transverse skills was examined in more detail, both from the point of view of the teacher and from that of the student, and an attempt was made to develop the innovation-transfer of knowledge pairing in keeping with the Third Mission of the University. During the third (2013-2014) over 20 people worked on improving the methodology and its internal and external dissemination, for example by means of a website (http://metodologiaaprendizajesacc.blogs.uva.es/).
Work is currently being carried out on the application of gamification within the methodology, i.e. the use of techniques and dynamics from games and leisure to motivate the students to participate and become involved in the activities proposed.