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TEACHING DSDM TO STUDENTS ABSTRACT This paper is for teachers who are interested in teaching an agile method like

DSDM to their students. Trainers have different aims, but if you train facilitators you may be interested in the assignment on process analysis. We are still learning, but so far weve taught DSDM for seven years, to over 700 students at the University of Central Lancashire, and at our partner colleges. We focus on requirements capture and design, rather than implementation. Before 1998 we taught the classic UK structured method, SSADM. DSDM has helped us to extend the range of underlying concepts and transferable skills that our students acquire. There are links from this paper to teaching materials that should make it easier for you to introduce DSDM to your curriculum. We are also finding that DSDM is a better vehicle for enabling our students to reach higher levels of intellectual maturity. CONTENTS 1. Why teach DSDM? 2. Aims for a DSDM module 3. Teaching methods 4. Learning resources 5. Assessment 6. Outcomes

1.

WHY TEACH DSDM?

This section summarises the main benefits and costs involved in adding DSDM to the curriculum. 1.1 BENEFITS As with all agile methods, DSDM is context dependent. We find that this helps students to reach higher levels of intellectual maturity (Perry 2004) DSDM has a light touch. Students grasp the essentials and get results quickly. It is easier to keep them interested, confident and motivated. DSDM is quick, but not dirty. It does not sweep tricky issues under the carpet, so graduates start work with fewer skill/knowledge gaps. DSDM is not prescriptive. It leaves plenty of interesting decisions for our most able students to debate. DSDM contrasts well with other agile methods, addressing more of the issues that a project leader has to address.

DSDM insists on business focus when prioritising requirements, so students who are not taking any business modules still make some decisions based on financial constrains, competitive advantage, etc. DSDM works with any development tools, so you can use whatever tools are already familiar to your students. DSDM was written by practitioners for practitioners. It does not pretend to offer a silver-bullet solution to all problems, so students learn to cope with the complexities of real-life situations. DSDM encodes best practice, but accepts this can only be achieved if nine DSDM principles are adhered to, so we can discuss what happens when the principles are not satisfied, to prepare students for organisations at lower levels of CMMI. DSDM defines deliverables and quality criteria for the softer aspects of the development process. Students can work in groups and still be assessed individually. DSDM is backed by industry leaders. This prestigious support for the practical effectiveness of DSDM helps to convince students with practical experience who are cynical about academic perfectionists. DSDM principles clarify the philosophical differences between methods. Students can develop their own rational comparisons based on experience in the classroom. There is less regurgitation of trite text-book comparisons between methods.

1.2

RESOURCES The main cost to us was in designing suitable assessments. You are welcome to copy what you like from our assessments. Please let us have your ideas also (to kjtaylor@uclan.ac.uk ) Basic costs are the student text (Tudor 2002), copies of the manual DSDM 4.1 (2002) for the library and one video of a facilitated workshop. No special software is needed. Any CASE tool and any rapid development tool (Microsoft ACCESS will do). Some students enjoy using mind tools such as Mind Manager and Visual Concept. Extra preparation costs will be minimised if you use the teaching materials described in section 4 on resources. Final year undergraduates and masters students should have access to the DSDM white papers. These are only available if your University is a member of the DSDM consortium. DSDM uses facilitated workshops of 10-12 people. For large classes you might consider keeping tutorials groups small, with students only turning up to half the classes. Students learn more in a small group for half the time than they would in a larger group for twice the time. DSDM expects us to make mistakes as we struggle to find a good solution (not perfect, but good enough to be useful). Students need a supportive learning environment (section 4) in which to guess and make mistakes.

DSDM involves people in regular facilitated workshops. It will not easily lend itself to distance learning.

We found that the benefits outweigh the costs. You will probably start by introducing DSDM as part of an existing module. The rest of this paper describes a second-year module that concentrates on DSDM. The prerequisite was a first-year module on structured methods. Now we are teaching UML in year one.

2.

AIMS FOR A DSDM MODULE

Learning outcomes from our DSDM module include the ability to: Contribute effectively to facilitated workshops Elicit requirements and help stakeholders to prioritise them Develop a project plan and deliver reliably within a time-box Model the physical data and processes in an existing system Analyse the logical requirements of a business system Discuss the selection of appropriate methods and tools Recognise sources of risk and suggest risk management strategies Use metrics for risk and take account of business objectives This is not a prioritised list of outcomes. It shows the order in which students acquire these skills. Computing students often expect to be shown exactly how to arrive at the one-right-answer to each problem. It is difficult for such students to reach intellectual maturity, as defined by Perry. DSDM acknowledges the complexities and uncertainties inherent in all human activity systems. We intend that our way of teaching provides the challenges and supportive learning environment that our students need to mature. This maturity should be reached for both empathetic and objective knowledge (that is for appreciative/emotional/aesthetic relationship knowledge and rational/analytic/objective reasoning). As we gained some experience of this type of teaching, another aim emerged. Could we use DSDM principles to guide our teaching and learning? We have just started on this venture. Early indications are that a DSDM approach makes a lot of sense in the classroom, but implementing every aspect of the DSDM philosophy would require a radical change to some of our assessment regulations. These regulations are vital to assuring BCS and IMIS accreditation for our courses. For our students, the demands of professional accreditation outweigh advantages from a radical dynamic approach to education. We aim to provide the most dynamic learning experience possible within the constraints of our existing assessment regulations.

3. TEACHING METHODS A DSDM lifecycle, is made up of several simple patterns (iteration, increments and infrastructure). After simple patterns are explained and assembled into the classic DSDM lifecycle, we discuss project-planning decisions, how and when they are made. It is important to strike a balance between: Revising the basic patterns often enough for weaker students. Adding new ideas at a steady pace for average students Keeping the most able students from becoming bored.

If the pace of teaching is too slow for the most able students, we flash forward to a final presentation that shows a difficult project getting into trouble. This demonstrates the dilemmas if projects go pear-shaped. It should not happen if people stick to DSDM principles but people dont always follow the method accurately. Even if they do, organisational pressures can make it impossible to follow all the advice all the time. Able students enjoy Debating how to ensure that the nine principles are followed Devising strategies for coping when things go wrong. Going back regularly to the nine principles helps weaker students to a better understanding of what the principles really mean (rather than just being able to memorise the list. Facilitated workshops are central to the practice of DSDM so they should be central to the student experience. Role-play can be very effective for learning about workshops, but before students attempt to play roles themselves, they need: An example of a workshop, to provide experience of this sort of work situation A supportive learning environment, with ground rules for everyones behaviour Students watch a video of the first workshop at a small health centre. Then they draw four versions of data flow and data models for the health centre: A first draft, from memory of what they understood the existing system to be. A version strictly limited only to the facts spoken in the video script. A required logical design of how the ideal health centre would operate. A proposed physical design for this particular health centre. The limited version is full of question marks, so it helps students to see how much of what they thought they heard was deduced from limited information. The question marks generate agenda items for the next workshop. The briefing pack for the second workshop at the Cherry Tree Health Centre is the main deliverable for assessment. In order to experience full-time rapid turn-round the students would have to produce the briefing pack in less than a week. However at the same time they must study other modules and work to support themselves through college. We have to choose between: Longer time-boxes giving students less experience of rapid turn-round Incremental assessment, which can be very expensive in staff time Students use their briefing packs to role-play a second workshop. Before starting the role-play, students should be assured of a supportive learning environment (section 4). After role-play, we encourage students to discuss and reflect on the workshop process. We cannot over-emphasise the need to keep students safe from unhelpful criticism and embarrassment during these sessions. If safety is really difficult to provide, it may be better to limit reflection to individual notes with one-to-one feedback from a tutor selected by the student.

Learning through facilitated workshops involves reflecting on interpersonal processes. It is important to establish ground rules for how students and staff will behave in these classes. Even careful constructive feedback can demolish a students confidence. We also run the risk of giving bad advice especially when advising on unfamiliar cultures. If in doubt, ask general questions rather than giving specific advice. Because of time pressure, risk management is taught more formally. If you provide interesting student experiences of risk management, please share your material with us, as we have shared with you.

4.

LEARNING RESOURCES

You will need a tutorial room with moveable furniture and video playback. The ideal tutorial size is 10-12. Extra students can be left as observers, but the atmosphere of careful reflection is lost. If resources are tight, we recommend that you teach twice as many tutorial groups for half as much class-contact time. Smaller groups learn so much in a short time that you should find this arrangement suits everyone. This is our research area, so we also have a JAD lab with video feedback. The lab specification is available to let you see what can be done for less than 30,000 (if you use off-the-shelf CCTV). Regarding textbooks, the choice is simple. The Tudors book is an excellent supporting text for the majority of second year students. Version 3 of the manual is available to non-members and large order discounts are available to academic institutions. Your library should stock several copies of the manual, so you can expect all students to go back to source at least once. If you teach DSDM to final-year undergraduates or masters students you should have access to the white papers. From the uclan website you can get assignment specifications and tutorial sheets for: Establishing ground-rules in the classroom for learning about workshops Trying out some warm-up activities Analysing a case study about introducing RAD to a small organisation Experiencing managers information needs by trying to make business decisions Applying DSDM principles as we invite a new delegate to attend a workshop Performing a stakeholder analysis Other tutorials include prioritising requirements, project planning with timeboxes and risk management. We are in the process of altering these tutorials to provide iterative feedback. For a moderate distribution charge, academics can buy a VHS video of the first facilitated workshop at Cherry Tree Health Centre.

On the video, seven lecturers role-play the first workshop at a fictitious health centre. The health centre is a moderately messy organisation and there is some tricky behaviour during the workshop. The facilitator was totally inexperienced so she is just trying things for the first time. This is not an example of best practise; but it does give students plenty of mistakes to discuss. Most students are encouraged to think that they can improve on our efforts in that first workshop. The script that comes with the video lets the weakest students take their time and find plenty of agenda items for the next meeting. The script also minimises disadvantage for students who struggle to hear spoken English. We are looking for funding to produce a video that we can use as an exemplar of how DSDM ought to be applied. We would use it later in the module, when students will not be too discouraged by comparing the exemplar with their own efforts.

5.

ASSESSMENT

In-course assessment is 50%: exam 50%. Students prepare a briefing pack for a workshop, based on what they can glean from the briefing pack, video and script of the previous workshop. Students find this assignment really difficult. Staff liked it because it exercised all the skills that we used as practising systems analysts. For BCS and IMIS accredited degrees we must assess students individually, so there is tension between: Minimising the workload for students, by using formative assessment Students experiencing all the iterative and cooperative principles of DSDM Only accrediting students who can work as a lone developer, if the need arises. If we expect students to cover such a wide range of the real problems faced by practitioners, then we must be careful not to be too picky about their early attempts at an answer. We use a positive marking scheme. Criteria for a pass insist that students address all the central issues, but any moderately sensible response will do. Higher marks can be obtained for doing well in one or two important areas. Management issues could be left till a second assignment. Support mechanisms that work for us include: Separating the assessment specification into: Aims and learning outcomes as usual. A list of tasks that students must perform A list of the deliverables that will be assessed

Advices that students should read before they start the work. This ensures that all students are aware of all the verbal advice that we regularly gave when asked. Queries that students should answer before submitting their work, to check that they have not left out anything important. Assessment criteria as usual. Providing a poor answer to a simpler problem. When we first considered this we worried that students would mindlessly copy chunks of this poor answer into their answer. Dire warnings (accompanied by skull-andcrossbones) against this seem to be working. Students use the sample answer as a template, so they spend less time worrying about how to present their work. Devoting some tutorials to giving students feedback on their early attempts. We give a few marks for timely delivery and effort on early attempts. The emphasis is on feedback rather than assessment, but we save some staff time by assessing as we go.

In semester two we include a smaller assignment on process analysis because @uclan we specialise in talk about requirements. This second assignment specification may be of more interest to trainers preparing candidates for assessment by IAF.

6.

OUTCOMES

Students progress well through Perrys stages of intellectual maturity. We estimate that 50-70% of our students start this module at level 4 (Relativism). 60-80% reach level 6 (pre-commitment) by the end of this module. By the end of the following year, 50-75% are estimated to have reached level 7 (commitment). These are little more than the rough guesses described by Tom Gilb on page 220 of Competitive Engineering. Better measurements are underway. Despite more demanding material, student evaluations improved slightly a year after we introduced DSDM. More valuable to us were the following outcomes: External examiners and professional bodies commented on good practice. Three recent graduates emailed to say how useful this module was in practice. Part-time and mature students clearly respect the realism and currency of DSDM. As erstwhile practitioners, we had always felt somewhat uneasy teaching structured methods like SSADM. We had to tack on stories from our personal experience, saying, It isnt usually that straightforward. Or, you may not get

access to the stakeholders you really need to see. issues centre-stage.

DSDM brings these