Implementing problem-based learning in software engineering in a Sri Lankan University

PhD Thesis

Macan Markar, Deborah. 2010. Implementing problem-based learning in software engineering in a Sri Lankan University. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

Implementing problem-based learning in software engineering in a Sri Lankan University

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorMacan Markar, Deborah
SupervisorMaroulis, Jerry
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages321

The study aims to identify the parameters of an optimal learning environment to promote the development of graduate attributes and higher order learning skills in the
context of a professional preparation course for Information Technology graduates at a public university in Sri Lanka. It employs a design-based learning approach with
iterations of the design being undertaken over a four year period. The underlying pedagogy for the design was problem-based learning. As students were unused to
being challenged to apply their knowledge to the resolution of problems, a primary focus of the design was on scaffolding the learning experience. Significant use was
made of eLearning tools available through the Moodle content management system for this purpose. In addition to this, course lectures were supplemented with tutorial
sessions which provided lecturers with an opportunity to work through a series of skills building activities with the students. A key initiative was to enhance student
exposure to industry through the use of videos, chat and discussion forums as well as through face-to-face meetings. As many students in the public university system come
from the rural hinterland of Sri Lanka their experience of the industry they aspire to join is often minimal. One consequence of this is a lack of awareness of the
importance of soft skills or graduate attributes to industry employers and a consequent lack of motivation to participate in learning activities directed toward building such skills. The study also identified a fundamental need to address the issues of general and cognitive academic language proficiency in English – the language of instruction. While a range of tools and approaches were used successfully to help students develop teamwork, communication, independent learning and problem-solving skills, it became clear that it was not realistic to target development of such skills within a single subject and without addressing the issue of English language proficiency first. As the approach to study was a departure from largely didactic teaching-learning styles to which students had previously been exposed, opportunities for them to reflect on their learning were essential. These were built into the course in the form of assessable assignments. The study concludes by recommending a whole-ofcurriculum approach in the form of a framework for a further and more extensive trial of the approach.

Keywordsproblem-based learning; software engineering; Sri Lanka
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390405. Educational technology and computing
390113. Science, technology and engineering curriculum and pedagogy
461299. Software engineering not elsewhere classified
Byline AffiliationsFaculty of Education
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Problem-based learning - is it right for Sri Lanka?
Macan Markar, Deborah, Madurapperuma, Ajith and Maroulis, Jerry. 2006. "Problem-based learning - is it right for Sri Lanka?" Asia-Pacific Educational Research Association Conference (APERA 2006): Educational Research, Policy, and Practice in an Era of Globalization: The Asia Pacific Perspectives and Beyond. Hong Kong, China 28 - 30 Nov 2006 Hong Kong.