Academic journal article Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research

An Interdisciplinary Study in Initial Teacher Training

Academic journal article Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research

An Interdisciplinary Study in Initial Teacher Training

Article excerpt

1 BACKGROUND

The new educational model implemented in European universities focuses on the development of two sets of competences: (1) Specific competences in each degree, considered as essential for the development of a particular profession and (2) cross-curricular competences in all degrees. The latter, apart from being transferable to different professional environments, also enable constant adaptation to a continually changing labor market (Gisbert, Cela, & Isus, 2010). These cross-curricular requirements must be met by all university graduates regardless of the studies they have taken (Cela & Gisbert, 2010).

The pedagogical model based on the development of competencies implies the ability to understand, and know how to apply, theoretical knowledge; in other words, we are dealing with constructivist learning. Within this paradigm students are capable of transferring knowledge to new situations at the same time that they develop critical thinking abilities (Feger, Woleck, & Hickman, 2004), and accept responsibility for their learning. This process also involves teacher guidance and support throughout the learning process. Thanks to the use of specific tools, the traditional model is replaced by learning environments based on real contexts. Moreover, mutual understanding and peer cooperation are also perceived as key issues (Basque, Doré, & Henri, 2000). This meaningful learning environment is of paramount importance in order to improve the educational experience. Lastly, it is generally accepted that students who participate in this type of activities learn more and retain more of what they learned (La Roche & Flanigan, 2013).

The curriculum for compulsory studies at the University of Andorra has been developed by a group of experts made up of university representatives, ministry representatives, members from the professional schools involved and representatives of Andorra's University Quality Agency. These groups have been in charge of the evaluation of professional and academic qualifications that meet the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) standards, and that are also consonant with the social, economic, and professional context of the country.

The incorporation of competences within the curricula, and therefore in the general guidelines for the different courses, calls for a pedagogical revolution that comprises a methodological change in the academic sphere- a change that has already taken place in the levels preceding higher education.

The University of Andorra, which offers regulated higher education studies adapted to the EHEA standards, has adopted a pedagogical model that integrates the learning of competences into the different curricula. This model is based on continuous assessment, which is regarded as a fundamental resource to help teachers and students make decisions to improve learning. This evaluation process lets us gather information on the student's learning process.

Continuous assessment consists of a series of activities (between 3 and 5) that are presented, developed and evaluated throughout the semester. Each activity has one or more specific and transferable competences assigned to it. Each skill is accompanied by a rubric that grades it in terms of learning outcomes, according to three different levels of complexity.

Each degree has a map of specific competences that should allow the student to be aware of the timing and intensity with which each skill is practiced in each subject. This general competencies map allows us to plot skill development (Garcia & Gairín, 2011). In order to ensure that competences are effectively developed they are gradually implemented, always by associating them with the ongoing assessment exercises of the subjects involved. Therefore, students in any of the three academic years, who are gradually working with the three levels of competence, are selected.

In this paper we present a study of innovative education at the University of Andorra, conducted with sophomores of the Bachelor of Science in Education. …

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