F3-PRO3-4 - Leadership and pedagogical skills in computer science engineering by combining a degree in engineering with a degree in education

1. Innovative Practice Full Paper
Mikael Cronhjort1, 2 , Samuel Bengmark3, 4, Linda Kann5, Viggo Kann1, 5
1 Learning in STEM, KTH Royal Institute of Technology
2 Department of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Science, University of Gävle
3 Mathematical Sciences, Chalmers University of Technology
4 Mathematical Sciences, University of Gothenburg
5 Division of Theoretical Computer Science, KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Topic keywords: Dual degrees, combined education, computer science engineering, teacher education, social skills, consultant

For decades, studies on engineering education have emphasized the need for an engineer to master other skills than the purely technical. This has resulted in reform efforts, e.g. the CDIO syllabus 2.0 (Crawley et al., 2011), as well as policy documents (SEFI Position Paper on Developing Graduate Engineering Skills, 2015). In computer science, the value of e.g. breadth, flexibility, critical thinking, and the ability to work well in cross-disciplinary teams has been highlighted (Exter et al., 2018). Students in educational programmes with a broad perspective may become better trained in such skills.

In Sweden, there are two educational programmes that combine master degrees in engineering and in education; at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and at Chalmers University of Technology, respectively. These programs were originally started because of fear that future recruitment to engineering education was threatened by poor knowledge and weak interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) among students in Upper Secondary School (Cronhjort and Geschwind, in press). These programmes are known to contribute to society not only by alumni working as teachers, but also in several other roles. About 60 % of the graduates are employed in organizations and companies, many as consultants in the IT sector. In the computer engineering role and especially as a consultant, programming and system building skills are important, but social and pedagogical skills may also be of crucial importance. Studies on the careers of alumni from the combined programme at KTH indicate that they are highly appreciated in companies, especially as consultants (Cronhjort et al., 2017).

The present study builds on quantitative and qualitative data gathered for previous publications, but they are here put in the context of computer science education, and their significance is discussed. Our results indicate that there are several factors behind the social skills displayed and the success of alumni in the computer science engineering role. A study by Cronhjort (2017) on motives for applying to the combined educational programme at KTH reveals that some students have hesitated to choose an engineering education for fear of becoming trapped in a lab with little social interaction. There seems to be a subset of applicants to higher education who are aware of their social needs and skills and may therefore be hesitant to choose a traditional computer science or engineering education. They would rather choose an education where they can combine interests in STEM and/or computing with the social activities offered by the teaching profession. During their education, students of the combined programme also receive substantial training in social interaction and pedagogy. We believe that the gender balance of educational programmes also matters for the development of social skills. In computer science education, there are often few women, whereas the combined programmes display a more even balance. We find it probable that a rather balanced context is good for developing versatile social skills.