– Why hasn’t the connection between knowledge and confidence gotten more attention?

Through education focused on problem-solving, PhD Candidate Kristoffer Slåttsveen hopes to develop students’ creative confidence already from an early age.

By Vilde Øines Nybakken

Kristoffer Slåttsveen got tired of cramming theory he might or might not make use of in the future when he was a student. He would rather see students learning theory by making use of it in a  more realistic context. As a PhD Candidate at NTNU Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, he wants to figure out how.

– I think the principle behind confidence and self-efficacy is applicable to any profession, Slåttsveen says.

Creative confidence comes from the term self-efficacy, a term established by the psychologist Albert Bandura, the main source for Slåttsveens work. In his dissertation, he is writing about creative confidence in the design engineer education. Creative confidence is a personal skill that many successful designers and developers have in common, according to Slåttsveen.

– Confidence in your creative capabilities is what drives the motivation and ambition of people that dare to take chances. I want to see how that skill can be learned in an educational context. How can we create students with a higher level of creative confidence?

More practical work in the classroom

For the last 18 months or so, Slåttsveen has been in the process of making an online facilitation platform for problem based projects called The Makerbox. Stated in his paper presenting the project, Slåttsveen finds the the many maker communities around the world inspirational, and he has a desire to expose children to design and decision-making problem in early ages. The Makerbox aims to lower the threshold for doing something practical in the classroom.

– The project is a web page with a database with practical problem solving assignments. The assignments does not necessary have one solution. The teacher has to change his or her role from being a transmitter of knowledge to being a facilitator, he says.

Instead of looking to the teacher for the right answers, the students will try and fail, to see if the gadget they have built from the Makerbox assignment works the way it is supposed to. That way the students learn to trust their own design choices.

– The students will use simple materials such as milk cartons, copy paper and pipe cleaners. The platform is supposed to be simple, cheap and available to everyone. The practical assignments can motivate by being as simple as the fun of making holes in milk cartons, Slåttsveen explains.

Learning-by-doing meets gamification

Slåttsveen does not only have an interest in education. He also has a passion for making gadgets. In his office, he is surrounded by various gadgets he has built himself from different materials easily available for anybody.

– My work and research is a good excuse to make gadgets and play around, he says jokingly.

The gadgets is meant to be used for educational purposes. One of them is the Qbot, a robot built using Arduino, an open source electronics platform, and a learning project. By building it with Arduino, the students can transfer what they learn directly to other domains of  programming.

– It combines gamification and learning-by-doing. This is a small robot platform that can be programmed to perform various tasks, like following a black line on the floor or avoiding obstacles.

Government strategy to increase Norwegian students’ digital competence

The Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, the Minister of Education and Research at that time, Thorbjørn Røe Isaksen presented a digital strategy for primary and secondary education and training about six months ago.

– We want understanding of coding and technology included in the school curriculum already in the primary school. This strategy will take Norwegian education into a new era, Prime Minister Solberg stated in a government press release.

When 60 000 Norwegian six year olds had just started school, The Prime Minister emphasized the importance of preparing them for a more digital future.

– A lot of these children will work in professions we’re not familiar with yet. The digital development runs faster and faster. The educational system has to play a leading role in preparing our children in the best possible way for the future, was  further stated in the press release.

Hopefully, Slåttsveen’s work can facilitate the governmental digital competence goals in the future. Further, the government believes the appropriation of digital competence in the school is determined by yet another decisive factor; the teachers. In a study performed by “Monitor skole” in 2016, one of three teachers stated they do not get sufficient support in pedagogical IKT use.

– We want to educate designated IKT learning specialists, that can contribute to a higher competence amongst teachers, said the Minister of Education and Research.

Developing individual confidence is important

Slåttsween thinks the political goals can be reached by not only focusing on transferring knowledge, but by also developing individual confidence. The school can be used as  a golden opportunity  to expose everyone for something, like Arduino programming, for instance.

– Confidence gets a lot of attention in sports. In schools, it is all about knowledge. Why hasn’t the connection between knowledge and confidence gotten more attention? The challenge for me is to prove this and transfer my vision to measurable results with large statistic source data.

Some of the data for his research is collected through a course in Machine Design and Mechatronics he teaches at NTNU. Below you can see a video from November 2017, when students from the course presented their robots.

We look forward to see what results Slåttsveen’s work will bring in proving creative confidence is the key to a new era in Norwegian education.