“We do not complain about the level that students bring from high school, we deal with the issue”
Oscar Bruno, winner of the CIIE Award to Innovation in Education, stressed the position adopted by UTNBA to maintain the academic excellence that characterizes it.
Over the last few years, the School has been working hard to improve the education of students through three activities: the tutoring of UTNBA applicants for which the Entropy program was created; once they are admitted, the aim is to accompany them through the first years in their degree course, for which the mentoring program was created; and in the third place, to promote training courses in innovation among high school teachers with the Modelling Science Program, but mainly among teachers of the Faculty, for which the Centro de Innovación e Investigación en Educación (CIIE) [Center for Innovation and Research in Education] was created.
As part of that UTNBA policy to guarantee the academic excellence, this year the CIIE Prize was awarded to teachers who are employing an innovative teaching methodology.
From the three final projects, the award was given to PhD Oscar Bruno, holder of the Algorithms and Data Structure chair for 1st year students; the other two finalist projects belonged to Eng. Agustina Zangrando, Teacher and Administrative Secretary of the Chemical Engineering Department; and Eng. Diego Berenguer, holder of the Industrial Engineering Projects Evaluation chair.
Dr. Bruno, who, in his position as Chair, implemented the so-called vowels theory, stated: “We do not complain about high school weaknesses but reflect with them on the kind of engineer we want to educate, the skills and competences they are going to acquire, beyond content itself, to which we also pay attention and approach it completely.”
The vowels theory consists in Accompanying the student, ListEning to them, Interpreting them, and Orienting them, Using all the resources offered by technology: social networks and youtube videos, among others.
“My Project is simple: the class I teach is in the 1st year and first year students do not know anything about engineering. They are a little scared at first. We are focus on programming and not all students know or have been in contact with the discipline, so we have to approach them as if we were their teachers. We have to accompany them smartly. That is why we use the vowels theory,” Bruno states.
In that sense, the holder of the Algorithms and Data Structure Chair said that he gives a talk during the introductory course, before the admission exam, to meet the students and help them overcome their fear.
“On the first day, I do not wait for the students in the classroom, I go get them at the module A classroom of the introductory course. What we mostly do as teachers is not talking but listening. That changes the students’ predisposition,” he said.
Eng. Agustina Zangrando’s Project arose from the fact that even though the Chemical Engineering Department has a pilot plant and an associated technology lab, the students seldom had any contact with the equipment. They had a lesson in which they were explained what to do in the laboratory and when they went there the following lesson, they listened to the Lab chief while he handled all the equipment.
“We started to conceive this Project so that students could handle the equipment themselves. That was in 2012 and in 2013 we put it into practice. Since then, it has worked excellently. It consists of a video where we, the teachers, handle everything. It is 16 minutes long and the student has to watch it, without previous instruction, before going to the Lab. When they go, they have to handle the equipment. The truth is that the students’ feedback is fantastic. Now, they have to handle the equipment and make mistakes, which is part of the learning process,” Zangrando explained.
In turn, Eng. Diego Berenguer’s Project, adjunct professor of the Industrial Engineering Projects Evaluation chair, explained that presently, in that class, they work with “a Facebook group that is the central core of our communication and allows for a variety of possibilities such as sending instant messages, conducting surveys, uploading presentations that will be used for the different lessons (notes and tests samples, videos and files where some specific topics dealt with in class or not are explained), feedback surveys during the year, calendar modifications, extra-curricular activities and much more. It is also used as a platform for students and teachers to invite friends and family to the Project fair we organize every year, and this year it will be held on October 24 and 27.”
In addition, the faculty members coordinated by that Chair created a web page similar to Wikipedia, which allows “each group to access collaboratively to their projects, which prevents the risks of losing information as well as several different versions; gives uniformity to the structure; allows teachers to make observations in the discussion section, reducing the time spent on back and forth responses, and to see the progress of the students’ works and their corrections. In this way, content can be easily compared and we can see who has worked or not,” said Berenguer.
In that sense, PhD Bruno stated that, to support the students, teachers become “hosts of education. We are hosts in the education party for which we are permanently in touch with the students.”
To maintain this closeness with the students and be able to comply with the teaching of all the contents, Bruno explained that they employ all the resources provided by the technology (social networks, videos, etc.). Videos with the theoretical explanation of the topics are created so that in class they can reinforce key concepts or clear doubts: “the technology helps us a lot. We prioritize the competence over the content, that is, if somebody knows how to do something, it does not matter whether I could not teach a certain topic. Because if they know how to do something in relation to programming, they will surely be able to easily acquire that content that was not taught.” he said.
The teacher explained that his Project not only values everyone’s knowledge but also proposes peer evaluation: “the students not only have to answer what we ask them but they also ask questions to their classmates. And the problems raised by the students have to be solved and corrected by them. We evaluate quality and the proposal to deal with the problem, the quality of its solution process,” he explained.
Bruno mentioned the need to offer a “flexible education” to the students and argued that “the problem is not in the students but in us, who have to continue receiving training. We have to do what UTN does; the Center for Research and Innovation in Education is part of that, to foster continuous training.”
The work done by the Center CIIE is part of a UTNBA policy whose ultimate aim is academic excellence. The Institutional Mentoring System (which accompanies students after their admission); and the quantitative and qualitative research on admission performed by the Processes Planning and Management Office of the School are complementary strategies that articulate with that aim. From these strategies, other initiatives emerged, such as the outreach programs Entropy (to ensure equal opportunities in the admission of applicants from public schools) and Modelling Science, which proposes the training of Mathematics, Physics and Technology teachers in Basic Sciences teaching methodologies and processes.