Posts tagged ‘teaching’

A MediaComp MOOC in Processing

I was excited to read this in Katrina Falkner’s blog at the beginning of the year.  They’re teaching a Media Computation MOOC in Processing!  I highly recommend looking at the actual blog post and the links, to see the kinds of work that the students are doing.  (I wrote and scheduled this post when I first saw Katrina’s blog post, and it’s coincidence that it’s publishing when I’m with Katrina at Dagstuhl this week, discussing how we assess CS learning and attitudes.)

At the start of this year, we were also busy working on our Introductory programming MOOC, Think Create Code. We are really excited about this course, as we are have adopted the same Media Computation approach that we use in our on-campus course. We use Processing, and have built an EdX extension module to support an open art gallery where students can share their work, explore others and discuss. We will be using this course as part of our future on-campus offerings as well, allowing us to focus more of our in class time on working closely with our students. We launched Think Create Code in April, and ended up working with over 20,000 students from 177 countries. It was amazing to see the work of our students, and to see a fantastic blending between the artistic and computer science communities. The course now runs as a self-paced course open to all.

Source: Looking back on 2015 | Katrina Falkner

February 17, 2016 at 8:26 am Leave a comment

Using Greek ideals to improve progress in education

Nick Falkner has been using his blog in a series of posts to address a question that I’ve wondered about here: Why does research influence so little practice (see post here) and policy (see post here)?  Nick is taking a novel approach — he’s using the three values of Ancient Greece, brought together as a trinity through Socrates and Plato: beauty, goodness and truth.  He’s exploring how we can use these to define high-quality teaching. It’s an interesting series and approach which I recommend.

I used to say that it was stunning how contemporary education seems to be slow in moving in directions first suggested by Dewey a hundred years ago, then I discovered that Rousseau had said it 150 years before that. Now I find that Quntilian wrote things such as this nearly 2,000 years ago. And Marcus Aurelius, among other stoics, made much of approaches to thinking that, somehow, were put to one side as we industrialised education much as we had industrialised everything else.

This year I have accepted that we have had 2,000 years of thinking (and as much evidence when we are bold enough to experiment) and yet we just have not seen enough change. Dewey’s critique of the University is still valid. Rousseau’s lament on attaining true mastery of knowledge stands. Quintilian’s distrust of mere imitation would not be quieted when looking at much of repetitive modern examination practice.

What stops us from changing? We have more than enough evidence of discussion and thought, from some of the greatest philosophers we have seen. When we start looking at education, in varying forms, we wander across Plato, Hypatia, Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, in addition to all of those I have already mentioned. But evidence, as it stands, does not appear to be enough, especially in the face of personal perception of achievement, contribution and outcomes, whether supported by facts or not.

Source: A Year of Beauty | Nick Falkner

January 8, 2016 at 7:44 am 4 comments

Virtual Faculty Communities of Practice to improve instructional practices

Posted to the SIGCSE-Members list — I really like this idea! Our work on DCCE showed that communities of teachers was an effective way of improving teacher’s sense of belonging and desire to improve.  Will it work for faculty?  ASEE is the organization to try!

Greetings SIGCSE,

This is a great opportunity for CS faculty to work with like-minded faculty from across the country to explore and share support for introducing new instructional practices into your classroom.  Please consider this for yourself and pass it on to your colleagues.

Engineering education research has shown that many research-based instructional approaches improve student learning but these have not diffused widely. This is because (1) faculty members find it difficult to acquire the required knowledge and skills by themselves and (2) sustaining the on-going implementation efforts without continued encouragement and support is challenging. This project will explore ways to overcome both obstacles through virtual communities.

ASEE is organizing several web-based faculty communities that will work to develop the group’s understanding of research-based instructional approaches and then support individual members as they implement self-selected new approaches in their classes. We expect participants to be open to this technology-based approach and see themselves as innovators in a new approach to professional development and continuous improvement.
The material below and the project website (http://www.asee.org/asee-vcp) provide more information about these communities and the application process. Questions should be addressed to Rocio Chavela at r.chavela@asee.org.
If you are interested in learning about effective teaching approaches and working with experienced mentors and collaborating colleagues as you begin using these in your classroom, you are encouraged to apply to this program. If you know of others that may be interested, please share this message with them.
Please consider applying for this program and encouraging potentially interested colleagues to apply. Applications are due by Friday, September 13, 2013.
 
———————————– ADDITIONAL DETAILS ABOUT THE PROGRAM ——————————–
Format
Faculty groups, which will effectively become virtual communities of practice (VCP) with 20 to 30 members, will meet weekly at a scheduled time using virtual meeting software during the second half of the Fall 2013 Semester and during the entire Spring 2014 Semester. Each group will be led by two individuals that have implemented research-based approaches for improving student learning, have acquired a reputation for innovation and leadership in their course area, and have completed a series of training sessions to prepare them to lead the virtual communities. Since participants will be expected to begin utilizing some of the new approaches with the help and encouragement of the virtual group, they should be committed to teaching a course in the targeted area during the Spring 2014 Semester.
 
VCP Topics and Meeting Times
This year’s efforts are focusing on required engineering science and design courses that are typically taught in the second and third year in each of the areas listed below.
 
Computer science
Co-leaders are Scott Grissom and Joe Tront
Meeting time is Tuesday at 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. EST starting October 29, 2013 and running until December 17, 2013
 
Application Process
Interested individuals should complete the on-line application at https://www.research.net/s/asee-vcp_application_form_cycle2. The application form asks individuals to describe their experience with relevant engineering science courses, to indicate their involvement in education research and development activities, to summarize any classroom experiences where they have tried something different in their classes, and to discuss their reasons for wanting to participate in the VCP.
 
The applicant’s Department Head or Dean needs to complete an on-line recommendation form at https://www.research.net/s/asee-vcp_recommendation_form_cycle2 to indicate plans for having the applicant teach the selected courses in the Spring 2014 Semester and to briefly discuss why participating in the VCP will be important to the applicant.
Since demonstrating that the VCP approach will benefit relatively inexperienced faculty, applicants do not need a substantial record of involvement in education research and development. For this reason, the applicant’s and the Department Head’s or Dean’s statements about the reasons for participating will be particularly important in selecting participants.
 
Application Deadline
Applications are due by Friday, September 13, 2013. The project team will review all applications and select a set of participants that are diverse in their experience, institutional setting, gender, and ethnicity.
 
————————————————–
Scott Grissom
Professor
School of Computing & Info Systems
Grand Valley State University
 

August 20, 2013 at 1:28 am 2 comments

Carl Wieman Finds Colleges Resist Measuring Teaching

I’ve just started my subscription to The Chronicle of Higher Education, and the first print issue I received had a great article about Carl Wieman, whom I have written about previously (here and here and here, for just three).  The story (online here: Crusader for Better Science Teaching Finds Colleges Slow to Change – Government – The Chronicle of Higher Education) was about his efforts to get the White House to measure teaching practices.

At the White House, Mr. Wieman tried to figure out what might actually get colleges and their faculty members to adopt proven teaching practices. His centerpiece idea was that American colleges and universities, in order to remain eligible for the billions of dollars the federal government spends annually on scientific research, should be required to have their faculty members spend a few minutes each year answering a questionnaire that would ask about their usual types of assignments, class materials, student interaction, and lecture and discussion styles.

Mr. Wieman believed that a moment or two of pondering such concepts might lead some instructors to reconsider their approaches. Also, Mr. he says, data from the responses might give parents and prospective students the power to choose colleges that use the most-proven teaching methods. He hoped the survey idea could be realized as either an act of Congress or a presidential executive order.

I hadn’t heard about this survey, but my immediate thought was, “What a great idea!”  We need better ways to measure teaching (like with Sadler’s recent work), and this seems like a great first step.  I was surprised to read the response

College leaders derided it as yet another unnecessary intrusion by government into academic matters.

“Linking federal funding for scientific research to pedagogical decisions of the faculty would have set a terrible precedent for policy makers,” said Princeton University’s Shirley M. Tilghman, one of several presidents of major research institutions who wrote to the White House to complain about Mr. Wieman’s idea. “It is naïve to think that the ‘surveys’ will not have consequences down the line.”

Wouldn’t “consequences” be a good thing?  Shouldn’t we reward schools that are doing more to improve teaching and adopt better practices?  Shouldn’t we incentivize schools to do better at teaching?  I guess I’m the one who is naïve — I was surprised that there was so much resistance.  In the end, Wieman lost the battle.  He’s now left the White House, dealing with multiple myeloma.

Perhaps the saddest line in the piece is this one:

“I’m not sure what I can do beyond what I’ve already done,” Mr. Wieman says.

Is it really impossible to get universities to take teaching seriously?

 

July 12, 2013 at 1:05 am 12 comments

Teaching Tree: A Source for CS Videos

Here’s a repository for videos that teach computer science.  Unlike Khan, it’s open to anyone to contribute.  Unlike YouTube, it’s only about teaching CS.

TeachingTree is an open platform that lets anybody organize educational content. Our goal is for students to quickly access the exact clips they need in order to learn individual concepts. Everyone is encouraged to help by adding videos or tagging concepts.

via Teaching Tree.

March 14, 2013 at 1:19 am Leave a comment

Hard to tell if Universities teach: The challenge of low-stakes testing

What a great idea!  Everybody who goes to University takes a test like the ACT or SAT.  Simply give it to them again as they’re graduating! Now you have a measure of impact — the change between the entrance test and exit test is the value added by a University.

Seems simple, but it doesn’t work. Students have a huge incentive to do well on the entrance exam, but zero incentive to do well on the exit exam.   A new study published in Education Researcher shows that the motivation really matters, and it calls into question the value of the Academically Adrift study that claimed that Colleges aren’t teaching much.  How do you know, if students don’t really have any incentive to do well on the post-intervention exams?

To test the impact of motivation, the researchers randomly assigned students to groups that received different consent forms. One group of students received a consent form that indicated that their scores could be linked to them and (in theory) help them. “[Y]our test scores may be released to faculty in your college or to potential employers to evaluate your academic ability.” The researchers referred to those in this group as having received the “personal condition.” After the students took the test, and a survey, they were debriefed and told the truth, which was that their scores would be shared only with the research team.

The study found that those with a personal motivation did “significantly and consistently” better than other students — and reported in surveys a much higher level of motivation to take the test seriously. Likewise, these student groups with a personal stake in the tests showed higher gains in the test — such that if their collective scores were being used to evaluate learning at their college, the institution would have looked like it was teaching more effectively.

via Study raises questions about common tools to assess learning in college | Inside Higher Ed.

January 8, 2013 at 7:46 am 15 comments

It’s not about the teachers, it’s about the students: In MOOCs or Classroom

I agree with the post below which suggests that MOOCs misunderstand what a good teacher does–that’s what my post earlier was about.  I’m not convinced that I agree with the author’s definition of what a teacher does.  Yes, a good teacher does all those things described in the second paragraph below, but a key part of what a teacher does is to motivate the student to learn.  Learning results from what the student does and thinks.  It’s the teacher’s job to cajole, motivate, engage, and even infuriate the student so that he or she thinks about things in a new way and learns.  In the end, it’s always about the student, and the most important thing a teacher does is to get the student to do something.

But even if Tabarrok’s model makes good economic sense, it makes bad education sense and misrepresents what genuine teaching is and what the “best” teachers actually do. For starters, unlike TED speakers, they don’t simply deliver lectures and profess. They also work with students to help them become better thinkers, readers, and writers. How?

Through personal attention (such as tutorials) and classroom interaction (such as discussions and the guided close reading of texts). By constantly testing their students’ minds against theirs, forcing them to ask the hard questions and to explain them with significant answers. And by giving them appropriate personalized feedback.

via A Cautious Word about MOOCs.

Seb Schmoller had a nice response to my Friday post, where he asked what it will take for MOOCs to engage the student and lead to the learning that a good teacher can achieve.  He included a wonderful quote from Herb Simon which really captures the key idea:

“Learning results from what the student does and thinks, and only from what the student does and thinks. The teacher can advance learning only by influencing what the student does to learn.” – Herb Simon.

January 7, 2013 at 8:23 am 2 comments

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