Students’ Awareness and Embracement of Soft Skills by Learning and Practicing Teamwork
This paper presents a study about changes in computer science and software engineering students’ perceptions of their soft skills during their progress through the Computer Science Soft Skills course.
Soft skills are often associated with a person’s social, emotional and cognitive capabilities. Soft skills are increasingly sought out and are well recognized by employers alongside standard qualifications. Therefore, high importance is attributed to soft skills in computer science and software engineering education.
Content analysis was applied to interpret, categorize and code statements from students’ course assignment answers. Data analysis was performed gradually at the three main stages of the course and by the two students’ study populations.
The paper highlights the variety of (a) soft skills that can be learnt in one course, both on the individual level and on the team level and (b) assignments that can be given to students to increase their awareness and motivation to practice and learn soft skills.
Data analysis revealed the following: (a) five individual soft skills categories, with 95 skills, and five team-related soft skills categories, with 52 skills (in total, the students mentioned 147 soft skills); (b) course assignments and particularly team-based activities elicited student awareness of their individual soft skills, both as strengths and weaknesses; (c) students developed their reflection skills, particularly with respect to team-related soft skills; and (d) significant differences exist between the two groups of students in several categories.
It is important to provide undergraduate students with opportunities to integrate soft skills during their training. Establishing a meaningful learning process, such as project-based learning, enables students to apply and develop soft skills when accompanied by reflective thought processes.
A similar course can be taught and be accompanied by similar analysis of students’ learning outcomes, to examine the influence of local culture on the characteristics of soft skills.
Increased awareness of soft skills in scientists and engineers’ undergraduate education. University graduates who will strengthen their variety of soft skills in their academic training process and will be more meaningful employees in the workplace and in society.
Our future research aims (a) to explore additional innovative ways to increase students’ learning processes, awareness and practices in relation to soft skills and (b) to research how students’ soft skills are developed during the entire undergraduate studies both on the individual level and the team level.