Teaching Survival Tactics Resources, Getting Started, Dealing with Students, Grading, etc.
Ambiguities • The first thing I noticed about the subject I received, is that it has at least two interpretations: • Teaching: survivaltactics • Tactics for surviving teaching • Teaching survival tactics • Teaching others how to survive • Credit to Ursula Wolz for generating the discussion that led to that interpretation
So, who am I? • Married Bill (1967) … BA CS (1968) … worked in industry as programmer (1968 – 1969) … Kevin born (1969) … tried being full time homemaker/mom (1969 – 1970) … MS CS work and TA position (1970 – 1972) … David born (1972) … Part time temporary instructor, computing center consultant (1972 – 1980) Eric born (1973) • Founding chair of computing program (Business Information Systems) and academic computing center at small college (1980 – 1985). In parallel, first book, course work and exams for Ph.D. Program co-chair for SIGCSE 1984. • Full time Ph.D. student, complete dissertation, defend, write second text book. (1985 – 1987) • Full time faculty at Villanova (1987 – present) CSAB/CSAC program evaluator, then team chair. ABET CAC team chair, CAC chair, SIGCSE chair, Program officer at NSF in Division of Undergraduate Education, etc • Now: Professor of Computing Sciences, wife, mother, grandmother (of 7), keeping busy … having fun.
Surviving Teaching • If you are lucky, you will love it. • That definitely makes survival easier! • What to expect • You probably have no training in teaching; most of us never got any of that type of preparation • You will be expected to be a good teacher, somehow. • Your teaching load will vary greatly, depending on the type of institution where you teach • At emphatically research universities, teaching loads may be 1 course per term, or perhaps 3 courses over two semesters • At predominantly teaching schools, your load may be 3 or 4 courses per semester.
Some things to know • Teaching takes a lot of work • Prepare the material. • Plan for student learning • Teaching is part expertise, part performance, part caring and mentoring. • Time in the classroom is a small part of the time required for teaching. • Teaching is time-sensitive
Teaching and Learning • Teaching is about facilitating learning • The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. – George Bernard Shaw • You cannot guarantee that every student will learn. • However, a regular pattern of student failure does suggest that something is not working
Getting Started • If you really care about teaching, you will find a lot of people who care about helping you do it well. • Check for a Teaching and Learning center on campus • Newsletters, books, seminars, lunch gatherings, etc. • Talk to the people who have lots of students coming to their offices. • Attend SIGCSE, CCSC, ITiCSE, others • Volunteer to review for DUE
Resources • There are many resources available to help. • I will give a few examples, and tell you about two projects of mine • Textbooks • Expensive for students, so only order what you need and will use • Most come with supplemental resources • Answers to exercises, exam questions, even slides • Quality varies, but many are very useful when you are teaching a course for the first time. • The Web • Many free materials of great quality. Widely scattered and it may take time to find the ones that suit your need.
Some important sources • MIT open courseware project (Others also) • http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm • The idea is that an MIT education is much more than the content of the presentations that are made. So, they share those. Other faculty can use them, adapt them. • Collections around a theme • AlgoViz – Algorithm Visualizations • SWENET – Software Engineering courseware • CapSpace – Community College materials • Curriculum recommendations • Joint projects of ACM, IEEE-CS, AIS, etc • See acm.org/education
Ensemble • The Computing Part of a large NSF program to make learning materials in all STEM areas widely available. • Collections, Communities, Tools • www.computingportal.org
Some Features of the Computing Portal • Federated search over a growing set of resource collections and uploaded materials • Eventually – search tied to curriculum reports, course syllabi • Coming – “Wormhole” connections between other resource collections and Ensemble services • Commenting, Rating, Tagging • Community space • Forum, document sharing, maps, calendars, etc. • Tools • Extensive catalog, complete with comments • Special tools designed to run from within the portal
Distributed Expertise • Our CPATH award explores opportunities to share expertise • Expert partner with someone new to the subject • Peers, each with expertise in a part of the topic area • Interconnected courses – students in one providing input to students in the other • Recorded modules (planned)
Interdisciplinary Computing • Trend in several places • See Stanford CS program • Integrates computing and some application domain • Students need some level of preparation in both (or several) fields. • Likely feature in the new CS curriculum recommendations
Dealing with Students • There could be a whole workshop on that topic! • Students vary greatly, have different needs, expectations • First generation college • Next step in expected education path • Returning students
That other interpretation • Some students are cocky, confident • Many, especially those who are minorities in the field, have crises of confidence. • Teaching them to survive is an important goal
The way it was • You carefully prepared the course material for the day’s class. • You poured over the details, expanded on what was in the text, maybe made up some additional examples. • You came to class and presented all that you had developed to the students • … who sat, listened, and probably copied it all into their notebooks.
Things changed • We realized that the person who learned the most from this process was the teacher. • The best way to learn something is to teach it • Hmm. Maybe we should try something different. If the students worked that way, to understand well enough to present it to someone else, maybe they would learn better? • Role change, from sage to guide.
Active learning • Helping students learn • Lectures are the most efficient ways to convey some kinds of information • Active learning puts the responsibility of organizing what is to be learned in the hands of the learners themselves, and ideally lends itself to a more diverse range of learning styles.  • Eric Mazur • http://www.columbia.edu/cu/gsapp/BT/RESEARCH/mazur.html
Some approaches • Portfolios • emphasizes accumulation of accomplishments; continuity • Reading Summaries • a simple way to assure preparation for class discussions
Who are our students • This generation • Relate to their parents • Doers and achievers - accelerated courses, extra effort • Consumers - with their own money to spend in large quantities • Technology natives • Diverse population • Service activities • 70+ million
Pragmatic, achievers • What do I have to do to achieve what I want out of this? • They are not always excited about our courses • If you give them a check list of expectations, they will do what they choose to achieve what they think is worthwhile to them. • Don’t make a check list of points that adds up to course grades • It can be hard to get them to look long term and invest in the future
Assessment • Widely emphasized • How will you know if you have achieved your goals? • Set goals • Set realistic (and recognizable!) indicators that goals have been reached • Program outcomes • Course outcomes
Accreditation • Required by some universities, by some states (for public universities) • ABET Computing Accreditation Commission • Evaluates and decides accreditation status for • Computer Science • Information Systems • ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission • Evaluates and decides accreditation status for • Software Engineering • Computer Engineering • Program Criteria • General, Discipline Specific • Much more flexible than is often recognized
Grades • Necessary evil (IMHO) • Should relate to achievement of course goals, progress toward program goals • You don’t fail students! • Sadly, some students will fail • You document and record that • Many students are much more concerned about their grades than about learning • They do matter, for honors and awards, for graduate school opportunities, for job applications
Grades, continued • Grades ideally reflect the level of achievement of knowledge and understanding in a particular subject matter • The grade, considered separate from that achievement, is not grounded in anything meaningful
Grades, in reality • The grade is important to the student, whether or not it is for the right reason • You may be asked to justify a grade • Keep very careful records • Give plenty of opportunities for students to demonstrate what they have achieved • Give feedback on graded materials that show that you (or your TA) have looked carefully at the material • Return graded work promptly
It’s a wonderful life • Stepping down from the stage and working with students brings us closer to them • Depending on class sizes, you may get to know individuals pretty well. • You are making a difference in their lives. • When something clicks, and the light goes on – it is a very special feeling. Then you know why you are a teacher.
Some references • Active Learning:  http://edweb.sdsu.edu/people/bdodge/Active/ActiveLearning.html • Generations  Strauss, William and Neil Howe The Fourth Turning, an American Prophecy Broadway Books 1997. See also http://www.fourthturning.com/html/ • Timelines/types  http://www.timepage.org/types.html