Being agile with artefacts and authentic assessment in computer science

Alsop, Graham, Neve, Paul, Orwell, Suzan and Orwell, James (2018) Being agile with artefacts and authentic assessment in computer science. In: Horizons in STEM Higher Education Conference: Making Connections, Innovating and Sharing Pedagogy; 28-29 Jun 2018, Hull, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Agile focuses on process, while traditional software engineering assessments focus on artefacts and product. To be authentic, Computer Science must consider both, and this can present tensions. This will be explored through a lightning talk and discussion to consider whether Agile presents a constructivist vehicle for learning. Participants will be asked to share their experiences of the balance between process and product, and their reflections on whether this is appropriate. Then, a lightning talk will provide a context for this topic, and present a research plan for the further investigation of teaching methods that bring industrial good practice into the educational realm. The context for this work is that degree-level coursework is shared across two Level 5 modules. In one module, students are taught Agile Project Management, and in the other they develop a Web application with a database backend. In the former, students are expected to follow an iterative process, constructing project management artefacts along the way, while in the latter they are assessed on a final delivery of potentially shippable product. Here the assessment is authentic and based on an industrial case study. They are taught in the first teaching block through a project-based approach with step by step guides from staff, then in the second teaching block a problem-based approach takes over, leaving the students with more autonomy over the process. For example, in project management, projects are simulated using an Agile manner in teaching block 1, with iterative development of wireframe prototypes prior to development of functional prototypes in teaching block 2. Groups are shared across both modules and look to emulate real world teams. This inevitably comes with baggage, but that is the point! Common practices are being adopted, and the module teams must take on an Agile approach themselves. This has led to a sharing of administrative responsibilities. As an added complication, to ensure the approach is further embedded into the course, Personal Tutors are involved in part of the project management assessment process. Running a project is different from a simulation, so some aspects can only be learnt by doing, but the initial project approach offers scaffolding, this presents a dilemma. Students tend to over focus on the artefacts rather than the project management process, and again this presents a tension. Some compromises are required from both module teams to make this work, and there is a need for close communication and constant vigilance as new issues arise. After the lightning talk, a research plan will be presented for comment that aims to explore how effective commercial environment simulations, which are delivered and assessed in academic environments, are in improving assessment outcomes of both groups and individual members. The audience will be asked for their comments to develop further rigour for this planned study. This work is part of a pilot that will influence the delivery of a newly validated suite of degree courses. References Savin-Baden, M., Major, C.H., 2004. Foundations of problem-based learning. McGraw-Hill Education (UK). Schwaber, K., Sutherland, J., 2011. The scrum guide [WWW Document]. Scrum Alliance. URL Taylor, Ruth and De Luca, Damian, 2014. Theory to practice: Canalside Studio, a case study. Higher Education, Skills and Work¬based Learning, 4 (1). pp. 5¬16. ISSN 2042¬3896

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