Blog 4 by Anneli – Teaching in English

My learners are and will be working in small, medium and large size software development projects both in public and in private sectors. Their roles (maybe also job titles) are team leaders, projects managers, requirements analysts and software developers. They are working with multi-cultural and multi-lingual stakeholders and in multi-cultural and multi-lingual teams. The main working language is English.

My teaching, research and PhD/MSc supervising field is requirements engineering (RE). Requirements engineering is related to development of software-intensive systems. A software-intensive system is an interrelated set of human activities, supported by computer technology. The requirements express the purpose of such a system. They allow us to say something meaningful about how good a particular system is, by exposing how well it suits its purpose. Or, more usefully, they allow us to predict how well it will suit its purpose, if we design it in a particular way.

The idea of human-centered design is crucial – the real goal of an engineering process is to improve human activities in some way, rather than to build some technological artifact. Requirements engineering applies to the development of all software-intensive systems and contains a set of activities for discovering, analysing, documenting, validating and maintaining a set of system requirements.

Requirements engineering is above all a communication process, and the communication language is English. It is very natural that English is the teaching language in my courses (in addition to that the course belongs to faculty’s international programs). My students learn RE vocabulary in English which is an important key to the field. They also learn to discuss, write free form and structured form reports in English about topics related to RE. For me as a supervising teacher, it is a great issue to teach in English – helps me in research, in international collaborations and we do not have to invent clumsy translations for RE vocabulary.

So in RE course we have at least a common working language and a common RE vocabulary. In heterogeneous groups that is important and useful. My learners differ not only in native languages (or national dialects) and in academic skills but also in age and working experience. I have noticed that in groups it is a good idea to have a role which I call a group manager. This works. Working experience is a great issue when groups are peer reviewing each other. In this way we can benefit the knowledge they have gained in real working life.