08 December 2008

Class Observations

I recently had the opportunities to visit a number of CS classes both domestically and internationally. Here are some observations from these visits that I really like. I will keep adding to this list as I come across other gems!

  • Use analogies to explain difficult concepts ... e.g. passing of a hockey puck as an analogy to passing parameters, recipe as an analogy to algorithm, etc. 
  • Even in a big lecture, try to learn the names of at least some students.  One easy way is to get to know those who ask questions in class.  All of us like to be known!
  • When students ask what-if questions about programming languages, (e.g. what if you divide a integer number with a real number), instead of just giving them the answer, do a quick demo on the computer (if you have one set up).  This instills a culture of learning via experimentation.
  • Repeatedly ask the students if there are any questions throughout the entire lecture, and PAUSE. Students may not ask questions right away, but they know that the instructor is encouraging any questions they may have.
  • Instead of asking “Any Questions”, try “Who is comfortable with the material presented so far?” and take a poll. The poll can be done via either clicker or raising of hands.
  • Show Learning Goals at the beginning of class, show Learning Goals before each learning unit, show Learning Goals for each learning activity, show Learning Goals at the end of the class. The Learning Goals should reference back to the Learning Goals as stated on the course outline.
  • Great teachers are usually experts in what they teach. They know the subject well ... very well!
  • Students like a variety of presentation styles .. try video, simulation, debate, demonstration (such as having the instructor develop a piece of code live, or work through a problem after a number of unsuccessful attempts.) Students like to see the process of solving a problem rather than just the solution.

No comments: