Transformative Learning in Mastery-Oriented CS0 Course

 - Higher Education for the Future


The students joining undergraduate engineering programs in India need to come through a set of competitive entrance examinations. The entire pre-university education system appears to focus on students getting higher ranks in these entrance tests.

There is a culture of coaching institutes preparing the students for these entrance tests by focusing mainly on “remember” and “understand” cognitive levels of revised Bloom’s taxonomy. This results in students focusing on understanding and remembering solutions to the questions collected from previous years’ tests (NEP, 2020).

Majority of the first-year courses have the responsibility to transform the student’s learning in the direction of higher orders of learning. But many actual and perceived constraints felt by the institutions lead to a system that focuses on the performance (marks/grades).

The introductory programming course, commonly known as CS1, is a core course offered in the first year of all engineering programs in India. It is unique because writing a program for an authentic task requires skills in higher cognitive levels. The correctness gets verified by executing the program on the computer. These unique aspects of the course can be used to create transformative learning that help students to experience higher cognitive levels, metacognition and metacognitive regulation needed for engineering education. This paper presents the instructional design of the CS0 course and the qualitative analysis of the resultant transformative learning experiences of the students. We propose instructional methods of extreme apprenticeship and guided discovery learning to create transformative learning experiences. The transformative nature of learning experiences was established using case study approach and deductive thematic analysis.

Transformative Learning Outcomes

All engineering students in the present day context need to be educated to solve real-world open-ended problems, work effectively in a team, communicate well, understand the impact of their activities and take control of their learning even beyond their graduation.

Unfortunately all higher education institutions, with a few exceptions, instead of bringing about this transformation, evolved to adopt a performance centric approach. This transformation should take place preferably in the early semesters of an engineering program.

We understand from Mezirow (2003) that transformative learning transforms frames of reference, which refer to assumptions or expectations. Transformative learning transforms assumptions and expectations to become more inclusive and open, by the process of discrimination and reflection.

Expectations could be habits of mind, perspectives or mindsets. Also, the individual should be emotionally able to undergo transformative learning. Damianakis et al. (2019) stated ‘Transformative learning captures the process by which students engage in their learning, experience a change in perspective, of themselves or society, and then enact their new understanding’.

For this work, we use the working definition of transformative learning as a change in perspective that fundamentally alters the way the students: (a) feel about themselves in a learning context, (b) learn in the learning context, (c) relate to peers, the instructor, and in general to others and (d) relate learning to education and life.

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