Join us to discuss developing students professional competencies in software engineering on Monday 8th April at 2pm BST (UTC +1)

Some competencies in software engineering are either difficult to teach and/or hard to measure, especially in a purely academic environment. Professional competencies in software engineering are often easier to learn in the workplace, rather than taught in a University lab, workshop or lecture theatre. What evidence can students provide of the professional competencies they develop while employed in a, workplace? Join us on Monday 8th April at 2pm BST (UTC+1) to discuss a paper on this published in this years SIGCSE technical symposium ( by Matthew Barr, Oana Andrei, Alistair Morrison and Syed Waqar Nabi at the University of Glasgow [1]. From the abstract:

Competencies may be defined as the knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions that an individual is required to demonstrate in order to be considered professionally competent. Competency-based education has long been a feature of professional degree programs, but the discipline of Computing Science has only recently begun to embrace competencies as a means of structuring or evaluating students’ learning. Meanwhile, the practice of work-based learning – also well-established in other professional disciplines– has become more prevalent in Computing Science education, with increasing emphasis placed on work-based modes of learning, such as internships and apprenticeships. In this paper, we examine how students enrolled on a degree-level apprenticeship in Software Engineering have developed their professional competencies in the workplace. The paper is based on an analysis of 38 student assignments, wherein apprentices were asked to identify the competencies they have demonstrated, with reference to a portfolio of work. The UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence and Commitment, which outlines the competencies required for certification as an Incorporated Engineer, provided the necessary framework. Competencies relating to communication and inter-personal skills were among those most often cited by apprentices, with competencies relating to knowledge and understanding and design and development systems also featuring prominently. Competencies relating to responsibility, management, or leadership were less prevalent, with professional commitment proving to be the least commonly cited category of competencies. We provide examples of how apprentices claim to have demonstrated each competency, and discuss the implications of these findings for competency-based learning in Computing Science education

We’ll be joined by the co-authors who will give us a five-minute lightning talk summary of their paper to kick-off our discussion. All welcome, joining details at


  1. Matthew Barr, Oana Andrei, Alistair Morrison, Syed Waqar Nabi (2024) The Development of Students’ Professional Competencies on a Work-Based Software Engineering Program, SIGCSE 2024: Proceedings of the 55th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, Pages 81–87, DOI:10.1145/3626252.3630944

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Join us on Zoom to dive into open online interactive textbook publishing on Monday 12th June at 2pm BST

CC licensed Scuba diver by

The textbook has long been a mainstay of education. Although online textbooks can give students easy (and sometimes free) access to increasingly interactive resources, authors have a bewildering array of tools and publishing models to select from. Software such as,,,,,,,, and many others allow instructors to publish course material freed from the constraints of printed paper, monolithic Learning Management Systems (LMSs) and Monolithic Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Join us on Monday 12th of June at 2pm BST (UTC+1) to discuss a paper describing one example: Dive Into Systems an undergraduate textbook on computer systems. We’ll be joined the co-authors of a paper [1] and corresponding textbook by Suzanne Matthews, Tia Newhall and Kevin C. Webb from Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania and the United States Military Academy at, New York. 🇺🇸 From the abstract of their paper:

This paper presents our experiences, motivations, and goals for developing Dive into Systems, a new, free, online textbook that introduces computer systems, computer organisation, and parallel computing. Our book’s topic coverage is designed to give readers a gentle and broad introduction to these important topics. It teaches the fundamentals of computer systems and architecture, introduces skills for writing efficient programs, and provides necessary background to prepare students for advanced study in computer systems topics. Our book assumes only a CS1 background of the reader and is designed to be useful to a range of courses as a primary textbook for courses that introduce computer systems topics or as an auxiliary textbook to provide systems background in other courses. Results of an evaluation from students and faculty at 18 institutions who used a beta release of our book show overwhelmingly strong support for its coverage of computer systems topics, its readability, and its availability. Chapters are reviewed and edited by external volunteers from the CS education community. Their feedback, as well as that of student and faculty users, is continuously incorporated into its online content at

We’ll also be discussing options for adding interactivity to textbooks, see So join us to find out more about what the future of textbooks might look like using Dive Into Systems as an exemplar. All welcome, as usual, we’ll be meeting on zoom, details at

Nominate papers you’d like us to discuss at future journal club meetings at


  1. Suzanne J. Matthews, Tia Newhall and Kevin C. Webb (2021) Dive into Systems: A Free, Online Textbook for Introducing Computer Systems SIGCSE ’21: Proceedings of the 52nd ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, Pages 1110–1116 DOI: 10.1145/3408877.3432514

Join us to discuss cognitive load on Monday 7th June at 2pm

Cognitive Load Theory provides a basis for understanding the learning process. It has been widely used to improve the teaching and learning of many subjects including Computer Science. But how can it help us build better collaborative learning experiences? Join us to discuss via a paper by Paul Kirschner, John Sweller, Femke Kirschner & Jimmy Zambrano R. [1] From the abstract:

Cognitive load theory has traditionally been associated with individual learning. Based on evolutionary educational psychology and our knowledge of human cognition, particularly the relations between working memory and long-term memory, the theory has been used to generate a variety of instructional effects. Though these instructional effects also influence the efficiency and effectiveness of collaborative learning, be it computer supported or face-to-face, they are often not considered either when designing collaborative learning situations/environments or researching collaborative learning. One reason for this omission is that cognitive load theory has only sporadically concerned itself with certain particulars of collaborative learning such as the concept of a collective working memory when collaborating along with issues associated with transactive activities and their concomitant costs which are inherent to collaboration. We illustrate how and why cognitive load theory, by adding these concepts, can throw light on collaborative learning and generate principles specific to the design and study of collaborative learning.

Thanks to Nicola Looker for suggesting this months paper. As usual, we’ll be meeting on zoom, see for details.


  1. Kirschner, Paul A.; Sweller, John; Kirschner, Femke; Zambrano R., Jimmy (2018). “From Cognitive Load Theory to Collaborative Cognitive Load Theory”. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning13 (2): 213–233. DOI:10.1007/s11412-018-9277-y

Join us to discuss why minimal guidance doesn’t work on Monday 2nd November at 2pm GMT

Minimal guidance is a popular approach to teaching and learning. This technique advocates teachers taking a back seat to facilitate learning by letting their students get on with it. Minimal guidance comes in many guises including constructivism, discovery learning, problem-based learning, experiential learning, active learning, inquiry-based learning and even lazy teaching. According to its critics, unguided and minimally guided approaches don’t work. Join us to discuss why via a paper [1] published by Paul Kirschner, John Sweller and Richard Clark, here is the abstract:

Evidence for the superiority of guided instruction is explained in the context of our knowledge of human cognitive architecture, expert–novice differences, and cognitive load. Although unguided or minimally guided instructional approaches are very popular and intuitively appealing, the point is made that these approaches ignore both the structures that constitute human cognitive architecture and evidence from empirical studies over the past half-century that consistently indicate that minimally guided instruction is less effective and less efficient than instructional approaches that place a strong emphasis on guidance of the student learning process. The advantage of guidance begins to recede only when learners have sufficiently high prior knowledge to provide “internal” guidance. Recent developments in instructional research and instructional design models that support guidance during instruction are briefly described.

This is a controversial, heavily cited and politically motivated paper which has provoked numerous rebuttals, making it an ideal candidate for a juicy journal club discussion! Thanks to Quintin Cutts for this months #paper-suggestions via our slack channel at

As usual, we’ll be meeting on zoom, see for details and meeting URLs.


  1. Kirschner, Paul A.; Sweller, John; Clark, Richard E. (2006). “Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching”. Educational Psychologist. 41 (2): 75–86. DOI: 10.1207/s15326985ep4102_1 (see also for online attention scores)