Promoting Collaboration Skills through Challenging Group Tasks

Author(s): Antti Piironen

Affiliation(s): Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Finland

Date of publication: April 22, 2016

The Educational Problem

Teacher exchange in engineering education is typically conducted in one week long intensive courses. While engineering is transferring more and more to pair-work or small group work, it is a real challenge to simulate this environment in short term intensive courses. However, it is worth of doing, since the tasks and projects are getting more intense also in the industry. Students need to learn collaboration skills and learning critical thinking in their professional engineering context.

The Solution

A hard engineering topic, such as Digital Signal Processing Problem Solving, can be used as a platform for learning collaborative skills in addition to professional engineering skills. The course consists of daily group exercises, which are preceded by a quick introduction on how to use PC tools to solve typical problems. Students are forced to work on groups of 2-3 students, and decide their responsibilities together. The students are also challenged to give and ask advice in case they get stuck on some problem and this positive behaviour is rewarded in assessment.

Teacher should be very aware of the student’s skill level, and adjust the abstraction level of the teaching accordingly. Making topic too easy will frustrate better students, and too hard will cause general confusion.

Key Experiences

The proposed method work on intensive courses where the teacher does not know the students, and the students don’t necessarily know each others beforehand.

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