onsdag 4 december 2013

Do it now! - on our new procrastination application

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I've written about the work me and my colleague Björn Hedin have done on the topic of procrastination and students' studying habits several times before on the blog. Here is a summary:
- On procrastination (Oct 2011)
- On work habits and on getting things done (Oct 2011)
- Increasing the quality of education/dig where you stand (Jan 2012)
- Procrastination project progress (April 2013)
- I just have to color-code my books first (Oct 2013)
- School of procrastination" (Oct 2013)

Two yeas ago, me and Björn applied for a small amount of internal money that had been set aside for pedagogical developments at the KTH School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC). Our project, "Support for better studying habits in the age of procrastination" got money that covered 200 hours of our time. We used that money to (among other things) transform what had been a one-shot theme ("procrastination") that 225 students had worked with in our Media Technology programme into a module that could be spread elsewhere. One year later (i.e. one year ago), our then-recently-developed course module on procrastination was used by a lot more students (450) in the larger Computer Science and Engineering Programme. We have collected a lot of data about our students' studying habits from these two study programmes (and from almost 700 students) and me and Björn recently wrote and presented our first joint academic paper about procrastination.

Right now we sit on a treasure trove of data, but I'm adamant about Björn taking the lead on this research project and taking the lead on writing the different papers our data could generate (we already have a list of possible papers we could write based on the data we have collected). It's much more his area than it is mine (I want to move into sustainability, not pedagogical research - so I'm just in it for the ride). Rolling up our sleeves and wallowing in all the data we have is on hold though until Björn has finished writing up his ph.d. thesis. He's under pressure to present it during this coming spring (2014).

While all the paper-writing is in front of us, the actual, practical work that we got funded to do more than one and a half years ago is all water under the bridge now. We concluded our project by presenting the results at a CSC pedagogical seminar half a year ago, right before the summer. As I wrote recently (Oct), we have been asked to use our course module to teach 600 first-year students at another KTH school next year (autumn 2014), but that's not really research (even though it will generate new data), and it's not pedagogical development work, but rather "just" teaching/applying the course module we developed within our pedagogical project.

Well, it now turns out we have a new opportunity to apply for means for the same purpose (pedagogical development) and from the same source (KTH School of Computer Science and Communication). The deadline was a few days ago and me and Björn handed in a new application called "Gör det nu! Stöd för bättre undervisning om prokrastinering" [Do it now! Support for better education about procastination]. Since we are on a roll, we want to develop our own teaching materials as well as revamp our course module so that it's adapted specifically to first-year students (we have this far used the module in two different program-integrating courses - where first- second- and third-year students are integrated). Here's a translation of the project summary for our new, recently-handed in application:

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Do it now! Support for better education about procastination 

Last time it was possible to apply for these funds, we [Daniel and Björn] were awarded funds to implement our project "Support for better studying habits in the age of procrastination" . The term procrastination stands for "postponing until tomorrow, another day or a later date; to delay " (Nationalencyklopedin) .

With this application, we would like to build upon our previous, successful work with the theme procrastination. This theme can be linked to more general issues of relevance to our students' studying habits, media habits, their habits of managing distractions, to course objectives and planning and to examination and throughput.

In the previous application, we applied for means to examine and analyse the results of working with the procrastination theme in the media technology programme (2011/ 2012). One of the key results was that a course module was developed that was used during the following year by 450 students on the computer science programme (2012/ 2013). The module was much appreciated (Kann & Magnell 2013) and the results were above expectations (Hedin & Pargman 2013).

Next academic year (2014/2015), it is time for 250 new students at the Media Technology programme to work with the procrastination theme, and the following year 450 new computer science students will do the same. In addition to this, all the first-year students on all five engineering programs at the ITM school will work with our procrastination theme during the autumn of 2014. In the long term (from 2015/2016 for Media Technology and hopefully the following year after for Computer Science), we want also students at MT and CS to use the course module during their first year at KTH. We will, during next academic year, have a golden opportunity to test an updated structure and updated content on the 600 first-year ITM students - and then to debug and embrace it at the CSC school.

With this application we apply for funds to work with materials collected from approximately 700 students at the CSC school in order to further develop and improve our module. The purpose of this is twofold:

  • We want to develop their own teaching materials - a tailored, KTH-adapted compendium - dealing with the topic of procrastination and nearby areas such as study habits, distractions and the use of technology. This will give us the opportunity to replace (because of the current rules for copying lecture materials) the grab mix of materials that we use right now and instead tailor materials that are adopted to students in general, and to engineering students at KTH in particular. We will also weave insights and results from our previously work at KTH into these teaching materials.
  • In parallel with the work of developing a compendium, we will naturally be "forced" to process and work with our already-collected material and thereby further improve our module. Our goal is to further "sharpen" the material so as to have maximum impact on the (malleable?) first-year students with a minimum of effort in terms of student and teacher time we claim.
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