Showing posts from January, 2010

Problem Solving with Robots

Scott Turner and Gary Hill from the Division of Computing (along with Jonathan Adams from the Division of Engineering on a related project) have been investigating teaching and developing problem solving skills as a first step developing programming skills through the use of LEGO-based robots and graphics based programming.

Work on problem-solving has been on-going in the School of Science and Technology (was School of Applied Sciences) for the last four years looking at the concept of teaching and developing problem-solving first, then programming. The main vehicle for developing the problem-solving skills has been LEGO Mindstorms robotics kits and series of gradually more challenging robot-based tasks.

Lawhead et al (2003) stated that robots “…provide entry level programming students with a physical model to visually demonstrate concepts” and “the most important benefit of using robots in teaching introductory courses is the focus provided on learning language independent, persisten…

Education and Employability

Rashmi Dravid from the Division of Computing at the University of Northampton has been investigating the application of problem-based learning to an aspect of computing, aiming to enhance the employability of these students. Rashmi has describe this as "The problem-oriented nature of computer networks lends itself to problem-based learning (PBL), which is claimed to integrate many of the requirements stated by graduate recruiters into the learning experiences of students, and therefore aid employability.
The funnel-approach [1] to problem-based learning is used.  The research differs from the existing PBL interventions in the discipline, by using a step-wise induction problem-based learning, using problem-solving learning as a pedestal.
The problems provide the context to relate subject matter content to real-world situations and motivate students to make connections between knowledge and its applications. The pedagogic framework is implemented for the three computer networking mo…

Soft skills for scientists: not a soft option

Within the School of Science and Technology at the University of Northampton, Rashmi Dravid working with Andrea Duncan from DELTA-E, University of Northampton are looking at the personal and development of the 'soft skills' for Computing students. This builds on some earlier work by Jonathan Adams (School of Science and Technology) and Andrea on developing these soft skills in Engineering students.

The following is taken from the abstract "Soft skills for scientist: not a soft option" by Andrea Duncan
"Engineering and technology sectors have long recognised the importance of softer skills for successful career progression, as indicated in most job vacancy specifications, and in professional competency standards, for example, Engineering Council UK and the new framework of the British Computer Society. HE programmes in these fields however sometimes provide minimal support for the personal and professional development processes which encourage student awareness and…

Problem solving and creativity in Engineering

Jonathan Adams, Phil Picton and Stefan Kaczmarczyk from the School of Science and Technology, University of Northampton in collaboration with Peter Demian from Loughborough University have recently published a paper in the Journal  Enhancing the Learner Experience in Higher Education entitled "Problem solving and creativity in Engineering: turning novices into professionals".


Recent UK and European benchmarks for both undergraduate and professional engineers highlight the importance of problem solving skills. They additionally identify creativity as an important capacity alongside problem solving for both novices and professionals. But, how can we develop and encourage these important skills in undergraduate engineers?

For many years researchers have explored how the differences between novices and experts might show educators techniques for improving the problem solving abilities of their students. Whilst it is often appreciated that knowledge and experience have …

Audio Feedback

Recently I have been 'playing' with giving feedback to students and other members of staff as audio files. Trying both making recordings using either handheld recorders or Audacity ( I was trying it as part of the Sounds Good project (
The first attempt looked at giving a summary assessment feedback as an audio file, alongside individual written feedback to a group of first year students. It end up being about four minutes and was definitely more detailed than it would have been if I had written it. It had an unexpected outcome. It was recorded using a handheld recorder and my first time doing it, the volume varied as my hand moved. Some of the student's thought this was amusing, but they must have listened to it to know!
Second area was giving feedback on staff portfolio for a lecturer training course. It is good for this as the level of detail expected was quite…