Better Teaching Practices

This post originally appeared on the Software Carpentry website.

It wasn't part of our original plan, but over time Software Carpentry has come to be about better teaching as much as it is about better computing. In aid of that, I would like to offer the following:

  1. Titus Brown's summary of Week 3 of his Next Generation Sequencing course, in which he discusses how things were taught at least as much as he discusses what was taught.

  2. Lex Nederbragt's post on active learning strategies for bioinformatics teaching. There are a lot of good ideas here, particularly his description of using a Google Spreadsheet during class (which he credits to Nick Loman) and his use of a Google Form for peer instruction-style concept tests.

  3. A recent paper by Barker, Hovey, and Gruning titled What Influences CS Faculty to Adopt Teaching Practices?. The abstract reads, "Despite widespread development, research, and dissemination of teaching and curricular practices that improve student retention and learning, faculty often do not adopt them. This paper describes the first findings of a two-part study to improve understanding of adoption of teaching practices and curriculum by computer science faculty. The paper closes with recommendations for designers and developers of teaching innovations hoping to increase their chance of adoption." If you're lucky enough to live behind the Great Paywall of Academia, you might enjoy an earlier paper from the same group on undergraduate retention in computing; you might also check out Mark Guzdial's post on pushback against incentivizing active learning in CS classes.

  4. Mark Guzdial's writing also pointed me at the Teaching Perspectives Inventory, an evidence-based division of how teachers think about what they're doing that distinguishes between Transmission, Apprenticeship, Developmental, Nurturing, and Social Reform views. My scores are fairly balanced among the last four views, with Transmission a distant last place.

There's lots here for us to digest, and I hope we'll be able to talk about some of it in the coming months.

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