RE’08 Follow-up:Questions About Reinforcement Pattern in Teaching Software Requirements

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At REET08, Sascha Konrad presented “The Reinforcement Pedagogical Pattern for Industrial Training” by Brian Berenbach and Sascha Konrad from Siemens Corporate Research. They outline a pedagogical pattern called the “Reinforcement Pattern” in which you teach the students a concept (including any definitions), give them a couple of examples of the concept in context, do one or more exercises together, and then relate a set of concepts together using a team exercise.

Their paper talks about how this works well in industry requirements education.

The questions that this paper made me think about:

1. Can you use this pattern when you are not always with the students in person? This is something we are just beginning to develop more thoroughly, but I hope the answer is “yes”. I know of someone at DePaul University who does a distance learning course where many of her students are remote. She does her best to make the examples and exercises work for remote students. They seem happy with it as well. However, there probably is some impact to not all being physically in the same room. It’s harder to share the students’ practice work and teach from it if not everyone can see it. The team discussions students have will not be as easy if they cannot all just gather around a table for 3 minutes in person.

2. Is it more important that the instructor have experience at instruction or at requirements engineering? This is something we have long debated. Currently we put an emphasis on instructors having requirements engineering experience, and we teach them to be good instructors (or select the requirements engineers that are naturally good at it). However, a good instructor should be able to learn enough about the subject matter to facilitate a good learning experience even if they haven’t done it. My concern is they don’t have the stories from practice to relate to the students. But perhaps those can be learned.

3. Is customizing the exercises to be specific to the context of the students important? For example, if you are teaching students from a mobile phone group, should your examples relate to mobile phones specifically? We have courses that are taught in a public forum, so we cannot be specific to all students in your examples and exercises. Therefore it seems to work to use generic examples and exercises, but be ready to address how they can translate the practice in the course back to their job.

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