Undergraduate and Graduate Studies
- 9 minutes
Providing stimuli for didactic innovation, encouraging reflection and dialogue, and highlighting good practices. Three elements on which SUPSI relies heavily to provide a basic education in step with the times. The Credit Suisse Award for Best Teaching is part and parcel of this valorisation. For the two-year period 2021-2022, the central theme in the call for entries was didactic innovation through the development of distance learning environments and flexible, customised learning paths. We talk about this with Daniela Willi-Piezzi, Director of Basic Education.
SUPSI has always placed a strong emphasis on quality and didactic innovation. We follow the paradigms of university didactics, valuing and stimulating the continuous improvement of what we do. The great challenge lies in stimulating teachers - most of whom are teacher-researchers or teacher-professionals - to reflect on their own teaching practices and on the representations they have of the role of the teacher, relating them to the needs of the students of today and tomorrow. The Credit Suisse Award for Best Teaching offers an ideal pretext for stimulating reflection and is at the same time an opportunity to encourage and valorise innovative practices.
The themes for the two-year period 2021-2022 were, on the one hand, how to use technology and distance learning for learning and the development of competences, i.e. the creation of favourable learning environments, and, on the other hand, how to personalise learning on the basis of the student's needs. The three award-winning projects impressed us both for the passion shown by the teaching teams during the discussion and for the quality of the didactic design and reflection.
The first two winning groups exploited technology in an unusual way compared to the most common practices: starting from the difficulties observed in students' learning of theoretical and abstract concepts, they used technology as a support to foster the learning process and transfer. The third prize, on the other hand, was awarded to a project that proposed a learning path that focuses on the individual student's journey of growth and reflection and the development of his or her professional identity. A carefully designed pathway that fosters motivation, involvement and the student's gradual assumption of responsibility for his or her own learning.
For us it is not only the innovative idea that is important, but above all the pedagogical-didactical reflection that is done by the teacher or group of teachers. Even the most technologically advanced tool is an end in itself if it is not inserted in a targeted and coherent manner into a learning path.
How can technology lend itself to training that meets current needs? We asked Fabrizio Fornara, Head of the Teacher Education and Training Service (SEDIFO).
With the pandemic, there has been an acceleration in the use of technology, which we think can be exploited by the teacher to promote the integration of distance learning situations in a training course in which in-presence interaction continues to play a fundamental role. The use of digital technology obviously requires the development of the teachers' literacy and can help in realising an idea, in strengthening a competence approach, and in fostering the transfer of knowledge also in the world of work, where technology has become fundamental.
Our approach is not limited to seeing technology as a tool for transmitting content. We want it to serve as a means of involving students more, of stimulating active participation both in and out of the classroom. This implies that the teacher 'gets off the desk', that he too gets involved in an increasingly participative and shared process with the students. It is a process that we promote and that needs time to consolidate. The Credit Suisse Award for Best Teaching also goes in this direction, but we do not reward the exploit of the teacher. What we look for in projects is a practice that is embedded in a common teaching context, that can also serve as an inspiration for other teachers and that can have a multiplication effect, that has transferability.
First prize went to the project 'Virtual Reality as a teaching tool in an experimental course in Interior Architecture' by Matteo Vegetti, Marco Lurati and Matteo Moriani. Matteo Vegetti tells us about it.
The idea for the course was born in 2018 together with the revision of the curriculum in interior architecture.The working group had planned a course on the Phenomenology of Space and I, the philosopher of that group, was to teach it. Some time later Pietro Vitali, the head of the degree course, suggested that I realise the course with the use of virtual reality. At the time I did not understand what he meant at all. It was only after some time that I managed to grasp the concept: the idea was to exploit the potential of immersive environments to experiment with the concepts of phenomenology, understood above all as the philosophy of perception.
The internal SUPSI call for tenders on the digitisation of didactics (2020) then provided us with the opportunity to move on to a project phase.We were still in the pandemic period and almost all our colleagues proposed activities related to distance learning.We took another route, because we felt it was a chance to implement our idea.The call for proposals made it possible to finance not only the preliminary research phase, but also the purchase of the Oculus Quest 2 helmets, which were essential for the course.
First, however, it was necessary to set up an interdisciplinary team.
In addition to the skills of a philosopher, we needed those of a skilled interaction designer, to develop the virtual environments and possible forms of user action, and then those of an architect, to understand how to transfer the abstract notions of phenomenology into the field of spatial experience.With Marco Lurati and Matteo Moriani, we formed a truly interdisciplinary team, as each depended on the expertise of the others.We imagined structuring the course in five units - respectively dedicated to the theme of thresholds, field, synesthesia, atmosphere and orientation - and developed for each of them a different approach, but always aimed at merging theory and experience. We wanted to create an applied philosophy course, where students could discover certain theoretical principles through practice, with their own bodies, even if it was a virtual body.
I must say that we were also a bit reckless, because we were not fully aware of the difficulties that awaited us.
When I delved into the existing literature about the educational uses of virtual reality, I found very little.In the faculties of architecture there are courses that use VR, especially as a rendering tool, but despite my efforts, I could not find any philosophy courses that made use of it (and to be honest, no theoretical courses in general).As far as I know, ours was the first course in philosophy applied to virtual space.The experiment ran during the academic years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. The results were definitely positive, even though it was something new and required a lot of effort to fine-tune it and get closer to the set goals. Right from the start, we tried to structure a methodology that could offer other applied philosophy courses a model to be inspired by. It was also for this reason that I was immediately asked by a magazine of the University of Milan ('AN-ICON') to recount our experience and present the working method we had followed.
The second prize was awarded to Francesco Micheloni and Elisa Bassani's project 'Mettere i saperi in situazione per formare alla professione'.
The project took place within the "Anatomical Functional Basis" module of the Bachelor's degree in Physiotherapy, where we analyse the motor act, correlating it with the fundamental neurophysiological mechanisms, joint dynamics and muscular interventions necessary for the execution of gestures.
The pathway we proposed represents a novelty in the use of technological instruments capable of detecting and acquiring, during the execution of functional movements, kinematic data (Motion Capture Optitrack system), electromyographic signals (Due-Pro wireless EMG) and signals linked to the activation of certain areas of the cortex thanks to the monitoring of cerebral haemodynamics (TD-NIRS functional spectroscopy). Technical support was provided by DEASS's 2rLab research laboratory, Milan Polytechnic's physics engineer Michele Lacerenza and PIONIRS engineer Mauro Buttafava.
All instrumental acquisitions were performed in the 2rLab research laboratory on healthy people.The use of six infrared cameras, which identified the position of reflective markers placed at specific anatomical points, allowed us to detect the movement of different parts of the body. To record muscle activations, we used electrodes placed on the main muscles involved in the considered movement. To capture the activation of brain areas, we instead used surface electrodes that measured the concentration of oxygenated and deoxygenated haemoglobin in a specific region of the cerebral cortex.
With this information, we made instructional videos that were used during co-teaching activities on gesture analysis. In particular, these videos provided a new kind of support in the analysis of sit-to-stand, supine-sitting and reaching.
Videos show students what really happens during a movement.They allow them to see aspects that would otherwise be impossible to visualise with the naked eye, and they promote understanding, learning and relating the different elements.For these reasons, these didactic devices contribute to the development of the ability to analyse as opposed to a purely theoretical and abstract study carried out only in books.
Our aim was to offer a training course that better responds to emerging trends in university teaching and at the same time is more oriented towards the development of movement analysis, a fundamental skill for the physiotherapist. It is precisely from this analysis that a treatment plan and therapeutic proposals appropriate to the patient are drawn up.
Our training offering relies on active and participative teaching methods and is based on the blended learning model. In the course of the module, we have alternated between classroom activities in the presence, and e-learning moments at a distance in asynchronous mode.
This project is at an early stage: over time, we will need to acquire more data and verify the effects on learning, but the initial qualitative and quantitative feedback is encouraging and supports the validity of our format.
The last prize was awarded to the 'School-based Ergotherapy Internship Project' by Benedetta Ramani Croci, Stefania Moioli and Selene Gervasoni.
The School-based Ergotherapy internship is a service learning project in which pedagogy focuses on service to the school community, responding to two needs: the educational needs of SUPSI students and the needs of the compulsory school.
The students carry out an internship period within compulsory school classes and outline the teacher's needs in relation to learning topics. The areas of interest for the year 2022 were fine motor skills and graphomotricity. Then, accompanied by the project leader, they plan and implement materials and activities that will be used by the compulsory school teacher to support the development of the aforementioned skills of the pupils.
The first edition of the internship, which originated during the COVID 19 pandemic, took place completely online and involved a couple of students and a kindergarten class. The positive feedback made it possible to continue and implement the project in the following years by extending it to six students and three compulsory school classes in the first cycle.Over time, a hybrid teaching approach was introduced by integrating the use of technology in the practical module.This made it possible to offer a flexible learning experience in both synchronous and asynchronous modes. Students were accompanied through online meetings. Furthermore, they documented their learning journey using the ePortofolio: a digital binder in which they posted pictures, videos and texts contextualising their experiences to the UAS occupational therapist competence profile.
The project is an innovative example of service learning, which aims to provide students with the necessary skills to deal with a real-life situation in the professional field of reference, in this case the compulsory school, where there are currently no occupational therapists active.
This approach is a good example of how university education can have a concrete and positive impact on the community.It also promotes a branch of occupational therapy not yet established in Switzerland, school-based occupational therapy, and is in line with the recommendations of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists, which encourages the promotion of occupational therapy in schools.
Lastly, the project is a concrete example of intervention in a community context and in favour of a didactic approach that respects the principles of universal design, emphasising inter-professional collaboration between two figures: occupational therapists and teachers.