ViRPlay3D: The evolution of a Virtual Environment Based on Active Learning to teach Object-Oriented Design Concepts

Role-play in classrooms

Instead of accepting the thesis about the usefulness of role-play sessions in object-oriented teaching described in the literature, we wanted to go one step beyond. Instead of using them for teaching basic object-oriented concepts, we proposed their application for learning more advanced concepts of object-oriented design, like the use of
design patterns. Following the ideas of learning-by-doing approaches and object-oriented role-play sessions, our proposal helps students not only to gain insight into the how and the why of design patterns, but, what is more important, it helps students to learn to apply them. Following the axiom “Good design comes from experience, and experience comes from bad design”, our students learn to use the GoF design patterns by means of a collaborative design experience, identifying pitfalls in existing designs, analysing the potential alternatives and their advantages and drawbacks, and achieving a better solution by means of a pattern-directed refactoring. One of the innovations of the approach is promoting active learning and student participation during the analysis and comprehension of alternative designs through role-play sessions: each student performs the role of an object within the case study in order to better understand the collaborations among the objects by simulating the execution of a use case.

We applied this teaching approach in Spring and Fall 2006 in two editions of a 25-hour seminar on Design Patterns. From the research point of view, on the one hand, we employed these experiences to collect the students’ opinion about using role-play sessions in the classroom and the different tools employed, such as the CRC cards and the RPDs. On the other hand, we developed an experiment with the aim of estimating the pedagogical efficiency of our approach and the importance of participating in the role-play sessions instead of observing them. More information about the sessions and all the material employed are available here (in Spanish). Specific figures and results from the evaluation are described in the paper G. Jiménez-Díaz, M. Gómez-Albarrán, and P. A. González-Calero, “Teaching GoF Design Patterns through Refactoring and Role-Play,” International Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 24, iss. 4, pp. 717–728, 2008.

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