June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Educational Research and Methods
23.758.1 - 23.758.45
Innovations in Software Engineering Education: Integrating Active Learning and Design-based Learning AbstractOver the last two decades, significant advancements have been made in thedevelopment of active learning approaches in many fields of engineering. Theseefforts focus on transforming course content from passive, traditional classroomenvironments to modes where the students take a much more dynamic andparticipatory role. Similar advancements have been made in project-basedlearning (PBL) and design-based learning (DBL). In these cases, students learn inan application-based environment, typically in teams, and, in the extreme, directedby open-ended problems where no single right answer exists.While the literature reports a number of examples of active learning and design-based learning approaches within engineering, few investigations are reportedregarding their integration. This void especially exists in certain areas ofengineering, such as software engineering.In this paper, we consider a systematic investigation of combining active learningand design-based learning for the instruction of software engineering content. Theinvestigation entails an experiment based on two scenarios: a control group,focusing on the traditional approaches, and an experimental group, focusing onactive learning through peer to peer instruction and the integration of designproject modules. For the purposes of this study and educational needs of thestudents, the experimental environment is chosen to be an intermediate-level shortcourse on objective-oriented programming in Java. The control group follows atraditional learning approach, i.e., a water-flow model, where content is presentedin lectures, labs, readings, and homework assignments. The experimental group,on the other hand, learns content through pre-assigned readings, peer-peer activepresentations and discussions of course content, faculty-led follow-up discussionsof content at a peer level, connections of provocative and real-life examples tomotivate course content, and design-based problems integrated throughoutclassroom and out-of-class activities.Based on this general structure, the short course was offered to students from avariety of educational and experiential backgrounds. Students that volunteered forenrollment were brought together for a course orientation. As part of thisorientation, a pre-test on an objective-oriented concept inventory wasadministered, in addition to registration information focusing on the students’background. The students were then selected as participants in the control andexperimental groups, where they were evenly distributed according to educationallevel and skills in software programming.After selecting the control and experimental groups, the short course wasimplemented over a one-week period. The participant groups remained segregatedfor course content instruction and course exercises until the final day of the coursewhere the students presented results of a final designette project. Faculty membersteaching the short course were recruited to have similar expertise, enthusiasm, andcontent knowledge, independent of the control and experimental group structure.Upon completion of the final project, all students in the course completed a post-test on the object-oriented concept inventory, as well as a learning experience self-assessment. These assessment and evaluation instruments provide theexperimental data for the study, i.e., pre- and post-tests of the course content, aquestionnaire on the learning experience by both groups, and key demographicinformation. These data are analyzed statistically to measure the learningoutcomes of key concepts when comparing the control and experimental group.Self-assessment of learning styles and approaches are also analyzed across thesample sizes for both groups and with respect to the pre-knowledge anddemographics of the participants.Key findings from these analyses include: (1) the experimental group performssignificantly better on concept inventory questions focusing on applied, workingknowledge; (2) generally the experimental group performs better, with statisticalsignificance, across the entire concept inventory; (3) the experimental and controlgroups perform equally well on basic concept questions from the inventory; (4) interms of self assessment, the experimental group finds the learning experience tobe, on average, more engaging, inspiring, helpful, and relevant compared totraditional learning approaches; and (5) the design-based learning was noted as akey component for participant motivation and engagement throughout theexecution of the course content. These findings are significant as they represent anintegration of contemporary pedagogical approaches for engineering education.The implications for learning approaches in software engineering and, moregenerally, engineering education are: our exploration into active learningapproaches indicate new and promising alternatives for pedagogical approaches insoftware engineering; integration of active learning and design-based learning(DBL), based on our experimental evidence, suggests that a foundational approachof working on a specific design project accelerates and enables learning ofdifficult engineering content; and applying the particular active learning and DBLstrategy within our study has significant potential as a model for teachingfundamental software engineering concepts.
Junhua, L., & Zhang, Y., & Ruths, J., & Moreno, D., & Jensen, D. D., & Wood, K. L. (2013, June), Innovations in Software Engineering Education: An Experimental Study of Integrating Active Learning and Design-based Learning Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19772
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