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Monday, 14 July 2014

Track F - Why FIBS are changing the Computer Science Degree at Middlesex - Prof. Martin Loomes (S&T)

Do we need to read a manual before we start using a new device such as a mobile phone – or is this now an outdated notion? Martin started his session questioning the necessity of learning theory before applying it in practice. He himself felt “old enough to feel I should use a manual but technically savvy enough to know that I don’t need to”.

The radical redesign of the Computer Science degree in the School of Science and Technology, included looking at what students needed to be able to do when they went into employment – what skills would they need? “Doing” emerged as the operative word. Comparing existing exams at different institutions, he discovered that many asked students to “talk about” or describe rather than asking students to do things.
Martin also reflected on whether today’s educational system should still be using Bloom’s taxonomy as the basis for creating learning objectives/outcomes for students; their new degree now has identified a set of learning behaviours as the basis for assessment in year one.

The redesign came about in response to a set of challenges:
  • accepting students with a low tariff
  • improving student progression from year one (and two)
  • improving achievement
  • improving NSS ratings
  • ensuring that the curriculum reflected an emphasis on programming
  • getting all staff into the REF
and the redesign addressed all of these, including freeing up staff from marking time to be able to focus on research.

The new approach focused on making the first year more challenging, putting coding at the centre, making it “practical”, establishing a core curriculum that the students must pass and improving the pass rate.

Watch the video of Martin’s session to see how they achieved this (FIBS; flipping the curriculum, inverting – practice is discussed via theory, deep blending and SOB – a tool to record when students have achieved their assessed observable behaviours) and to what he attributes the success so far (he credits the team of staff who ventured on this path with him) and also some surprising outcomes of this considered but undoubtedly risky new approach to teaching computer science.

Session video

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