Justify course assignments to students as practice for work-related competences

Author(s): Minna Lakkala

Affiliation(s): University of Helsinki

Date of publication: March 23, 2015

The Educational Problem

Students do not necessarily understand the reason for the working methods in a course, e.g. why they have to work in groups or collaborate with each other even if they would prefer studying alone, or why they have to seek for information and produce reports themselves, when the teacher could give expert lectures for them about the same issues

The Solution

Therefore, the teacher should explain the reason for each task or type of working, and not only from the point of view of learning the necessary content of the domain, but also concerning generic competencies that the students much possess in future studies and work life. For every assignment of a course, the teacher could explicate the learning goals for students, both related to content learning and skill learning, and have “metalevel” discussion about the goals with the students. For example, in one higher education course for engineers, when one student remarked that it is distressing to present one’s own work for other students, the teacher explained to the whole class how central it is in their future work to be able to express and explain their opinions to others and sell their ideas to colleagues, bosses and customers.

The Context

The practice is useful (or even necessary) in every educational situation in all levels, but in the vocational education and higher education it is especially important to connect the working methods and related competence learning to the practices of students’ future profession.

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