Currently, I am not engaged in any active teaching duties, beyond giving regular guest lectures in reoccuring courses, mainly held at Lund University. Topics include business models, software ecosystems, requriements engineering, open source software, and open data. Teaching and education is, however, still a core passion and an area I wish to engage in the future. Below is a brief summary of past teaching experience, followed by my core principles that I believe help to enforce learning outcomes and increase student motivation to partake in the teaching activities.
Brief teaching biography
During the first year of PhD studies I was on-boarded into three courses on software project management, large scale (waterfall) software development, and requirements engineering respectively. These courses continued to make up my core teaching during the following five years alongside my PhD studies (although I was involved on occasional basis in other courses, as well as in supervision of MSc. thesis projects). Initially, my main duties consisted of course project supervision as well as facilitating labs, exercises and seminars. With time, I was given further responsibilities in terms of both pedagogic development and teaching activities.
In the course on software project management, I, for example, influenced the way how peer-review of essays was introduced and iteratively improved. We later wrote a reflective pedagogic paper based on our experiences (Bjarnason and Linåker, 2016). In revised version of the course with a broader scope on software business, I was responsible for designing two out of six seminars, and was also responsible for developing and delivering two lectures related to business models and software ecosystems respectively.
In the course on requirements engineering, I was involved in the continuous improvement of the lab exercises and supervised an MSc. thesis where two students developed a new tool for requirements visualization and prioritization to be used in the labs. I also iteratively revised the course project and introduced real world stakeholders as product owners to ideas that the students would develop requirements specifications for. Based on the experiences, I later gave a reflective presentation summing our lessons learned (Linåker et al., 2019). I was also responsible for developing and delivering two lectures related to market-driven requirements engineering, prioritization and release planning, as well as requirements engineering in open source software projects.
During my two year Post-doc following my PhD studies, I halted my main teaching activities for a part-time leave of absence to support an industry partner with their open source software strategy and operations. However, I continued to deliver the lectures as usual, support the course on requirements engineering, as well as co-develop and deliver a PhD course on Design Science Research.
Core principles for teaching
Hands-on: Explain and contextualize theory through real world, hands-on examples. I believe that for theoretical constructs to make sense and to stick, they need to be connected to a real-world context. Based on my own experience as well as talking to students, reading or hearing about a construct theoretically and hypothetically in an abstract world, makes it difficult to remember and sometimes trust the validity of the claim. Hence, I try to make use of real-world examples to provide context and more specifically show how the theoretical construct can be instantiated in a real-world setting, and thereby provide logic and rationale that can be attached to the construct. I find this especially important for theoretical constructs that can have multiple instantiations. By providing examples from different real-world contexts and instantiations, the student can (hopefully) better understand the theoretical construct and have multiple frames of reference to it, and thereby provide a deeper level of learning. There is however a fine line between providing clarity and overwhelming the students with examples that might have a contrary effect on the understanding. The examples provided, therefore, need to be carefully selected and explained step by step so that it increases the understanding of the student without making the theoretical construct ambiguous or blurry.
Realism: Provide students with as realistic settings as possible in course projects. As with contextualization when explaining theoretical constructs, I am a strong believer in providing as realistic settings as possible for students when they are to apply the theory to practice through course projects. I believe this again helps to provide logic and rationale for the theory that the students are given. Realistic settings can further help in increasing the students’ motivation for actively participating in the projects (Williams and Williams, 2011), and thereby improve their consumption and understanding of the underpinning theory of the course project. Positive side effects of providing real-world settings in that students can potentially gain practical knowledge and well as soft skills (Bruegge et al., 2015), both relevant for their future professional careers.
Trust: Create and maintain a trust with students through an open and active dialogue. By creating trust among the students, they can more easily adopt and accept the knowledge that is being taught. The trust is based is in part based on the credibility of me as a teacher and that I “know what I am talking about”, and in part by the character that I project. I believe that to create and maintain such trust, or Ethos, that there has to be a trustworthy relationship between the students and me as a teacher.
Enthusiasm: Engage students with enthusiasm, attention and presence in the teaching. In teaching, I find having enthusiasm and Pathos about the topic and knowledge that I as a teacher aim to communicate is crucial. One reason is that it can help to create an active awareness among the students and have them concentrate their attention on the teaching activity and thereby increase students’ motivation to attend lectures and teaching activities. A second reason is that it can help to create interest and excitement about the topic but also nourish critical thinking, and thereby improve learning outcomes through a deeper level of learning. I believe that I as a teacher need to maintain this enthusiasm in every type of teaching activity, and stay one hundred percent focused and present to maintain the connection with the students throughout the activity.
Bjarnason, E., & Linåker, J. (2016). Teaching Academic Writing to Large Classes of Engineering Students. Faculty of Engineering’s Conference on Pedagocal Inspiration. Lund University, Lund, Sweden.
Bruegge, B., Krusche, S., & Alperowitz, L. (2015). Software engineering project courses with industrial clients. ACM Transactions on Computing Education (TOCE), 15(4), 17.
Linåker, J., Bjarnason, E., & Regnell, B. (2019). Involving real-world stakeholders in course group projects: Opportunities and challenges. Lund University’s Teaching and Learning Conference. Lund, Sweden.
Williams, K. C., & Williams, C. C. (2011). Five key ingredients for improving student motivation. Research in Higher Education Journal, 12, 1.