Investigate Demonstrate Automate
IDA (Investigate Demonstrate Automate) is a practical approach to IT education and training consistent with both the realities of the modern IT industry and the demands of TAFE curriculum and assessment. I am developing this approach for use in technically-oriented Cert IV and Diploma units (as opposed to business-oriented and other units, for which it is not so relevant) in Moodle.
The approach can be summarised as follows:
- Investigate: Research the task, the technology and the options.
- Demonstrate: Build a working solution.
- Automate: Implement the solution in code.
- The Investigate phase is about gaining content knowledge and the vocabulary to express it.
- It broadly corresponds to the Knowledge Evidence component of the assessment requirements of each unit of competency.
- Activities in this phase include reading web sites and books, viewing videos, completing online tutorials, and class discussions.
- Assessment in this phase includes content-related questions (verbal and written), quizzes and formal tests. Success in the two subsequent phases depends on learning in this phase.
- The Demonstrate phase is about applying knowledge to solving a specific task (which may involve many smaller tasks).
- It broadly corresponds to the Performance Evidence component of the assessment requirements of each unit of competency.
- Activities in this phase are practical and hands-on, whether in a physical or virtual environment. Students apply knowledge, experiment, test, modify, assemble and configure practical solutions to specific problems in specific contexts.
- Assessment in this phase includes observation check-lists, and evidence of specific tasks being successfully completed such as screenshots.
- The Automate phase is about re-implementing practical solutions in code (See Code as documentation and assessment for further discussion).
- The Automate phase is about reliability, repeatability and suffiency (performing a task more than once in different contexts). It is also about efficiently managing the test-debug-modify cycle that is explicitly required in many units.
- Activities in this phase include writing, testing and commenting scripts (short pieces of code designed to simplify or automate a system or network administration task) using a common industry-standard scripting language. Well documented and commented scripts elegantly and succinctly combine both knowledge evidence and performance evidence).
- Assessment in this phase is based on the scripts or code presented.
The Demonstrate and Automate phases can overlap or be delivered concurrently. This way, practical tasks can be “codified” in code as each step is completed, allowing direct comparison between manual and automated procedures. Either way, the main goal is that students learn that tasks performed laboriously and in an error-prone manner in a GUI or on a CLI can usually be re-implemented with a few crisp lines of code in a script.
This approach is not particularly ground-breaking or revolutionary. It mostly just reflects the reality of how problems are solved in the modern IT industry. What it does add to more traditional approaches to training and assessment is the notion of code as documentation and assessment.