1. Using Images in Presentations

bigskymanΤεχνίτη Νοημοσύνη και Ρομποτική

24 Οκτ 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 7 μήνες)

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1. Using Images in Presentations

I was asked to look into education for sustainable development when I joined my last employer, a
university in the midlands, as the Stern Report had just been published. As a result I asked around for
any colleagues interested in helping me to run an explo
ratory workshop (I am and educational
developer). As a result I met an inspirational colleague who taught me a fair bit about sustainablity.
However the reason for telling this story is to do with his presentation style

he used almost entirely
images, vi
rtually no text at all in his powerpoint presentations. There were dozens of them too. So the
result was that he did not speak to the slide, as there was no text to read, but the images were carefully
selected to expand on illustrate the points that he mad
e. Since then I have always tried to include far
more images, although I rarely do without text at all. I find that I speak far more fluently and I think
am more interesting to listen to as a result.

2. Off the Stage ...

I participated in a series of HHM
I workshops on science teaching at Haverford College as well as
MSPGP workshops on teaching at Bryn Mawr College and began to see evidence that the old lecture
style I was using was really not very effective

in fact, it be getting in the way of "real le
arning." I
had always used group work to a limited degree (mostly to make some time while I was getting ready
for the next topic), but I was becoming convinced that group activities where students teach each
other, make mistakes and adapt is more effective

(if only the students realized this and provided better
evaluations :).

So now I find that I have adjusted by reducing the nuber of concepts covered and instead trying to go
as deep as possible, injecting various pedagogies I have discovered over the yea
rs (including singing
songs I have written about computing). I still get mixed reviews, but I think the course is more
effective and certainly more engaging.

3. Changing expectations of distance learning students

I was teaching a distance learning M leve
l module to a group of professionals. We had planned to
release material at timed intervals and support this by individual mentoring support and group
discussion activities. The assessment was a portfolio, addressing specific aspects of the course, based
n the learning outcomes. The intention was that students would complete sections as they went along
and compile these at the end of the course. They were encouraged to do this and given access to an
ePortfolio system to support them. It became clear that o
ur basic assumptions about the students (e.g.
their level of competence with technology, their regularity in accessing the module etc) were
unrealistic and the external pressures on them from their work context (which they all shared) were
far greater than

anticipated so we made changes to try to support the students. One less critical
element of the syllabus was dropped, the requirement to participate in group activities was reduced,
and we allowed submission in a range of ways, rather than just through th
e ePortfolio. We also added
a number of synchronous web conference support sessions to address the issues they were having.

4. Getting the courage to use teams

I wanted my students to work in teams so they could do bigger things and learn how to work w
others. I was afraid of freeloaders, fighting, and power battles.

I took a PBL workshop where I got to talk directly to many instructors who were using teams. They
reassured me that the kinds of problems I feared are not common, and with that reassura
nce I dove in
the next semester.

I now find that instead of bringing out people's worst, working in teams brings out their best. My
students will work harder for their teams than they will for me or for an individual grade.

5. The importance of the chain


I ran data mining on student test data in Calc I by building a decision tree. I found that almost all the
students who had gotten the "differentiate using the chain rule" question wrong had done terribly on
the exam, and almost all the ones who had

gotten it right had done quite well. After that, I doubled the
amount of time spent teaching the chain rule.

6. CS3 Research

So we were just getting started in teaching Lisp, 61a had been running since 1986 and at that time,
CS3 was still in pascal. A
fter a while, it became clear that we were sticking with Scheme. Oliver
Grillmyer taught it for a year, and then I taught it for two years in a row, and we had NSF funding. So
here I am teaching this lisp course

early on I showed them the lisp evaluation

algorithm. E.g. if it’s a
number then it is self

etc. Evaluate the arguments, then apply the function. Etc. So

was a harry tree recursion, that I was expecting the student to be able to deal with

time after time

students late in th
e course were getting unbound variable messages and not having a clue what to do
with them.

The second year of our work, Betsy Davis showed up. She knew how to program from her
background. She started to learn LISP and kept a log of the things she was hav
ing trouble with. She
though “if I’m having this trouble

what must the students do”. In that class

we required everyone
in the class to sign up for an interview. She kept track of what was going wrong

mainly parentheses
and quotes. She interviewed st
udents and had them solve problems out loud. She discovered the rules
she listed in her paper about in her paper

misconcpetions like every argument should have parens, or
no arguments should have parens. Looking back it was easy to see how they had acqui
red these
misconceptions. The activities were such that they couldn’t easily get rid of these misconceptions. It
was easy to see from my lecture notes

how they might improperly generate the rules. Betsy cooked
up some exercises that are still used and th
e problem went away.

7. Learning styles..................a light bulb moment.

I was fortuante to particpate in a seminar session with Neil Fleming (Fleming, N.D. and Mills, C.
(1992), Not Another Inventory, Rather a Catalyst for Reflection, To Improve
the Academy, Vol. 11,
1992., page 137.) on his work with learning styles and inparticular the VARK questionnaire. I was
interested in his approaches and the way in which he identified a students perferred method of

I had previoulsy been aware of the variery of students needs and attempted to ammend or adapt my
approaches in order to be able to fulfill the needs of the range of students. However Fleming
highlighted the fact that although I may have recognised a studen
ts learning style it was much more
beneficial when the students themselves also began to understand their learning style.

To this end I began to suggest that my postgraduate students undertook the VARK questionnaire and
make me aware of the results (http:

This approach had a significant impact on the way I managed and resourced a post graduate taught
module delivery. I began providing resources for students based on their VARK anaylsis. I also
ged and guided students in accessing and utilising resources for learning based on their
preferred learning style. Wherever possible I created a resource in more than one learning style but
this was VERY time consuming, so I began to find resources which s
upported my own materials.

Since that time I have been encouraging students to undertake the VARK questionnaire for their own
benefit and I have begun to use a wider range of resources to support their learning.

8. Change in the era of cellphones

is a change
progress story.

In general, my goal is to run a highly
interactive class that involves the students coming up with much
of the solution and me helping along the way. The increased prevalence of laptops and cellphones
with internet connectio
n makes interaction more difficult sometimes because students get distracted
by the technology and don't interact in class. Dealing with this new technology

leveraging it rather
than trying to stomp it out

is the larger issue I face.

So the event th
at caused a change for me was a student coming up with a definition using wikipedia
(for a question that I usually asked as "what do you think X is?"). It let me know that he actually was
paying attention in class and I realized I could leverage him in par
ticular. The rest of the course, and
indeed every course involving that student through the rest of his career, would be designed so that
there were times when we all knew he would provide the formal definition. Student interaction
increased, student learn
ing increased, and it was the best run of that particular course that I had in ten

The problem I now have is

how do I maintain this change and continue to find ways to leverage
their technology. In almost every course someone has a phone with ac
cess, but I'm still trying to
figure out how to leverage their quick access to the information infrastructure to push us deeper into
process and problem solving. I had become really good at being spontaneous and encouraging wide
interaction and collaborati
on but this is a new variable that I haven't mastered in any way at all. I only
know that I refuse to believe the solution is to force students away from these devices.

9. the case for change

i was teaching a Foundation course in university learning an
d teaching and the students complained
that there was only so much work on butchers paper they could take. they foudn it repetitive and
unstimulating, the very things that i did not want to model. i wanted them engaged and connected and
constucting underst
anding through dynamic group discussion. so i decided to change what i was doing,
and looked around for what might work. I happened to go to a session on teaching using case study
and so decided to try a case. I searched for some, but in the end wrote my o
wn, brainstorming the
ideas with my colleagues. i tried it in the next class and asked for feedback afterwards, and have done
each time i have run the session. students are engaged and excited by the case and talk most readily
and opening about a whole ran
ge of issues i had always hoped to cover. i constantly fiddle with details
of the case, changing some points and adding or subtracting details, it keeps it fresh, and the
discussion a little different every time. i like that

10. Keep limits in the beginn

I used to let my students draw flow charts as they would like to draw them and not set exact limits of
what they would do.

The freedom of the general form of the flow chart, was not helping them to draw it in the right way.
They could n't learn!

, I put limits. And say, I want it exactly like that. Don't make anything diffirent.

After they did some proccess, I let them do some changes.

So my conclusion is, in new fields, where students do n't know what to do and learn for the first time,
keep li

Give some certain forms of what they can do and keep it this way until they really understand what
they are doing.

Then, you can let them free to change it in their own way.

11. Forced to conform

I had been running a Level 3 module for several
years and had developed it based on a two
weekly seminar, which included interactive activities, mini
lectures and discussion, in groups of 20.
The module was very successful

good level of student engagement, popular and above average
results. Howev
er the Faculty decided to introduce a common module structure across the Faculty and
all modules had to have the same delivery approach. We therefore had to change the module delivery
to be an hour lecture and an hour tutorial. This meant that we had to re
design the whole module to
accommodate a single weekly lecture for the whole cohort (sometimes before and sometimes after the
tutorial) and a tutorial (for 20). As a result we were unable to do so much interactive work or cover
material in such depth. Stud
ents became less engaged and the module was less interesting to teach.

12. Technology Changes Teachers

I participated in a course on Teaching with Technology. Although I had aways used technology where
I could, this course exposed me to dozens of different tools and uses for these tools in the classroom. I
now incorporate many of these tools in my teaching
and also keep abreast of new developments by
following blogs of others involved in the same process.

13. Show me how

I used to lecture on software design to undergraduate students. I would go through the material and
discuss notations and processes and

give the students some examples in class

the 'normal' approach
to teaching students something 'new'. I would illustrate my points in the class by showing various
aspects of 'good' design and some 'poor' or weak design. I would then discuss the consequen
ces of
poor design and the benefits of good design etc.

Students would then have to complete an assignment, in a team

e.g. create a design document for a
piece of software using UML. The thing is, students only had images from my slides and some links
o guide them. They had no idea still of what I really wanted. I changed my practice for the
assessment by giving students a template and by letting them submit a 'formative' version of the
assignment that received no grade, only feedback. This is what teac
hing is really about

students try something out, giving them feedback on how to improve and then letting them try again.
We don't do this enough, or at least, I didn't. What made me change my practice is a student
reminding me

"I have never don
e this before, I don't know what you want". This caused a
fundamental change in my approach to assessment and its purpose. I always assumed that what I
taught in the lecture and gave examples of, was enough. I forgot all about the real way we learn and

fact that learning means students should be able to make 'mistakes' and be given the chance to try
again. I incorporate this into all my classes now. I am not sure why I 'forgot' it was important to do
this, but I am glad I remembered. It's a basic idea r
eally, for good teaching, isn't it?

14. New Space, new teaching and learning

When I first started teaching, I taught GCSE English to students at a further education college.
However, the college had just started to set up 'Flexible Learning Centres' whi
ch were open plan, open
access and included a range of self
study workbooks and learning resources. It was impossible to
teach in a traditional 'chalk and talk' way as there was no whiteboard, the students were spread around
the room and other staff and st
udents were using the same room at the time.

It was necessary to adapt my teaching methods to suit the space. I created a 'self
assessment' check list
for the students to identify the areas they needed to develop and pointed them to the relevant self
y workbooks. I set up small group tutorials, 1
1 sessions and group work activities. There were
also a set of PC's in the room and set up a range of computer
marked quizzes (the students loved
these!), reference materials etc.

This was a very successful a
pproach and contributed to a large increase in our pass rates for the 1 year
sit classes.

15. Death to essays

This anecdote relates to change any years ago but which has some contemporary resonance. When I
began teaching in universities a quarter of

a century ago I set students essay titles, because that’s what
happened when I was a student. For a couple of years I was depressed at the more or less identical
rehearsals of textbook material which students handed in. These must have been very dull or t
hem to
write, and were certainly dull to mark. So one year I made them devise their own coursework. I
encouraged them to select a topic and decide how they wanted to address it, and decide how they
wanted to present it too. I didn’t set a word limit becaus
e I wanted them to decide what they needed to
do justice to the subject matter and how much time they were prepared to spend on it in relation to
their other commitments. Whilst a number of people wanted a good deal of support through the
process when the
work came in, it was much more exciting to mark and there was a sense that many
of them had actually got quite interested and enthusiastic about what they were doing and
consequently had done much better than they anticipated. So I never went back to setti
ng essay titles.
Over the years I learned that many students with difficulties could see their problems reduce
considerably once they found something that they could pursue with commitment and dedication.
Dyslexic students could spell and construct sentenc
es, the depressed and anxious could be propelled
towards greater efforts which ultimately they found rewarding and the night
merchants could be persuaded to start their work early. Not in every case, of course, but in sufficient

to make the process worthwhile.

After doing this for a number of years, in 2006 I saw an article in the THES about someone who had
allowed his students to devise their own exam questions, and this was presented as if it were an
innovation. Similarly, the
re has been a good deal more discussion about the value of student centred
work assignments in the pedagogic literature. Moreover, these days it addresses the PDP agenda, as it
enables students, if they wish, to do something related to their future employm
ent ambitions. It also
helps with that bugbear of the NSS, feedback. Students are encouraged to come and talk to me about
what they’re trying to do, so there are lots of opportunities for feedback early in the module, prior to
the NSS. Aside from these ins
trumental considerations, what it has brought me over the years is the
sheer pleasure of seeing young people (and the occasional not so young one) getting interested and
enthusiastic about topics that mean something to them.

16. Regular moderating of ma

A sample of marking is always reviewed by a fellow academic. I'd been marking quite successfully
with good feedback from students that the comments were helpful however my peer commented that I
might like to try focussing much more on feed forward
advice so that the student could make specific
improvements in approach for future assignments. Incredibly helpful. In reviewing peers marking I
also pick up on good ideas to incorporate into my own marking style. It's a two way process the
"moderated" get
s advice and the "moderator" can learn too.

17. Less can be more when teaching programming

This is a story of a subtle change in approach rather than a radical change. It was prompted by
working with a colleague and observing their practice.

I teach programming and have always placed great emphasis on good software engineering practice
and students getting the details right. In labs I would always spend time making sure students
understood nuances that were missing in their software solutions.

My colleagues had a similar
approach, so we worked well together.

Due to voluntary redundancies, my colleagues left and last year I was supported by a different lecturer,
whose main interest did not rely on teaching programming. He is a good and popular
lecturer and his
style is completely different from mine. His lectures were short (sometimes only 20 minutes long). He
concentrated on putting across two or three main ideas in a lively and fun way using cartoon figures
or relevant metaphors. He did not go

into detail. Sometimes he even misinterpreted the aim of the
lecture and taught something different from the accompanying exercises that I and my previous
colleagues had prepared. I observed that this did not seem to matter and the students did not appear

any less well prepared to tackle the exercises.

My colleague was very generous when marking the exercises. He did not look closely at the code and
if the student's program was roughly correct, he awarded them full marks. On the other hand, my style
is to

look more critically and offer suggestions for improvements. My marks were rarely 100%. As a
result, my colleague was in demand for marking but marked each exercise very quickly. Students
were motivated by the good marks, so attendance was very good. In t
he past, poorer students became
discouraged and their attendance became patchy. The overall results were good with poorer students
doing better than previous years.

It isn't in my nature to adopt this approach

I do have to point out errors if I see them

and there is a lot
of important detail in programming. However, I have learned a lot from observing my colleague about
the importance of motivation. I have now reduced the content of my lectures and concentrate on the
main concepts, not worrying too much
about the detail. I have redoubled my efforts to make them
lively and interesting. I have learned to trust my students to learn through experience, rather than
trying to teach everything. I am also more relaxed about marking the exercises as long as studen
show understanding of the main learning outcomes. I have learned to let my students make mistakes.

18. Don't do work in your head

On a data structure and algorithms exam, I frequently gave students recursive code to do something in
a binary tree and

asked them to give me the output (there was typically some numeric calculation). I
would get 80% incorrect answers. I observed that students would show very little work. I changed the
instructions to the problem to include showing the execution tree. Maki
ng students show their work
flopped the percentages. Typically 80% get correct answers now.

19. Thinking With Your Hands

I’m not sure when I started thinking of my classroom as a sensory deprivation chamber. Was it the
day, more than a decade ago,

when I brought a box of Lego to my Sustainable Development class and
asked my students to model a more environmentally friendly, anti
sprawl community? Was it the
semester of leave I spent as a visiting social scientist, studying and participating in stud
io education at
a leading school of architecture? Perhaps it was later, when after years of speaking and writing about
the strengths of studio education in disciplines with no studio tradition, my university created a
multidisciplinary studio
style classro
om where my colleagues and I could teach? In any case, the day
when, after three semesters of teaching in the studio, my Sustainable Development class was assigned
to Olsen 412, the fairly typical undergraduate classroom I’ve described above, was the day I

began to
feel that my students and I were unwitting participants in a grand but diabolical experiment: “We
know that after an extended time in a sensory deprivation chamber people stop being able to think
properly. Let’s see if this will happen to our bri
ghtest young people!”You may be thinking that it
should not matter that the classroom is empty. I’m the professor, and it’s my job to vivify the room
and engage the students with my virtuoso performance. All eyes should be on me, all ears open, all

still except for taking notes. I should want an empty room: no distractions! And I shouldn’t
want any student activity to slow me down

isn’t it best to cover the most material? But I’ve found
that my students are far more engaged, alert, and able to absor
b information when they are active
learners in a classroom rich with materials, and that coverage without understanding is a waste of
everyone’s time.After my first successful use of Lego in that undergraduate classroom long ago, I
tried Lego again in my g
raduate interdisciplinary social science seminar. (I should say, in the interest
of full disclosure, that one of the ways in which the first Lego exercise was a success was that it
revealed that my students had not understood the reading or the film on sus
tainable communities.) I
asked my graduate students to use the building toys I provided to model an important concept from
their discipline. One student formed Silly Putty into a rectangular solid, then squeezed one dimension
to demonstrate a truism of pro
ject management: you can have your new product on time, on budget,
or with all features, but if you compress one of these, at least one other will expand. Another student
built a physical model of the digital “header” of a data packet being routed on the I
nternet. I built a
decision tree out of Tinkertoys, and I’m still thinking fruitfully about that diagram all these years
later.At the next class, the students burst out, “Where is the Lego?” I had not planned anything
involving Lego for that day, and told
them I was concerned that if they were building with Lego they
would not be listening. But two students, one of whom was a particularly capable and mature working
professional, objected strenuously. They insisted that engaging their hands in simple tasks w
ould help
them to listen better. I have since heard this from knitters as well.


Now let me invite you into my new classroom, the studio learning space we call the “Lab for
Interdisciplinary Design.” I teach here whenever I can. You might notic
e the large table in the center
of the room, composed of smaller tables, so that my students and I can sit around and have a single
discussion. We can also pull the tables apart and have several smaller discussions, or work on in
exercises and projec
ts in small groups. There are shelves full of Lego, Tinkertoys, Post
Its, craft
materials, Magnetic Poetry, and a big roll of white butcher paper so that groups can make quick
posters, diagrams, or collages to display and discuss.We also have lab benches a
round the periphery
of the room, with Internet
linked computers, glue guns, hand tools, and soldering irons. (What can I
say? I’m a social scientist who has become convinced that one of the best ways to promote students’
sense of agency in the 21st century

is to teach them to solder.) On the shelves and windowsills are
student projects from previous semesters

models of energy
saving houses, concept prototypes of
interactive devices (such as the one that reads product barcodes and displays a report on the de
gree of
environmental and social responsibility of the manufacturer), and small handmade posters showing
redesigns of our classroom to make it conform to “universal design” principles.The tools, the
materials, the furniture, and the projects all announce “
this is a space for being active, for making, and
indeed for meaning making.” Sennett’s motto, “Making is Thinking,” motivates this space. The Lab
promotes student inquiry by giving learners a rich ecosystem of things to inquire about as well as
tools to u
se to support their inquiry. At last my colleagues from across the disciplines and I have a
place where we as teachers can truly be “the guide on the side” rather than “the sage on the stage.”
We are free to play this role because our students have availab
le to them so many ways to develop and
to express their understanding, and to make it visible to us. (A graduate student in Community
Psychology said, “This is like the Room of Requirement in Harry Potter,” where the things you most
need are present and av
ailable.)The Lab’s ‘thinking with things’ approach is built on the premise that
active, hands on, multi
sensory learning helps students to make sense of what they are being taught.
Unlike the lecture in Dewey’s canonical lecture hall, we enlist students’ h
ands, bodies, and
environment. As my friend Alison, a gifted personal trainer at my neighborhood gym, said: “I wish
they had taught physics in the weight room. Then I might have understood it better.” Even Piaget,
who brilliantly documented the child’s jou
rney toward abstract thinking, did not believe that once we
become abstract thinkers in one domain we think abstractly in all domains. When learning something
new, even adults benefit from starting from the immediate, using embodied learning as a springboa
to abstract understanding. That’s why I’m glad my students and I now have a place of refuge from the
sensory deprivation chamber.

20. The day I realised why we need a co
constructed curriculum

I prepared a special class for an option module, based u
pon a topical example. It took a lot of work,
but it was well received and crucially, the learners clearly gained the learning outcome, and I sensed
this was quite deep learning

motivation, enjoyment, re
application all emerged during the discussion

of the class.

The following year I had the same learning outcome to achieve for a mainstream class, and while I
had recently inherited the module and found that I had a lot of updating to do, far exceeding the time
allowance, I drew comfort that my inves
tment of time the previous year would at least require
minimum adaptation for one week's class.

But when I looked into their eyes halfway through the introduction I could see that a 15 month old
example was no longer topical

indeed most had never heard
of something that had been a lead news
item a short while ago. I rescued the class by managing to work in a more recent example. But the
experience was a bit of a shock.

Afterwards I reflected on this and decided where I had gone wrong, was that I had cho
sen the topical
example, and not they. I could not judge what they would find topical or not. I further realised that the
optimal solution was getting them to discuss and choose a topical example that exemplified a
phenomenon I had just explained to them.

21. A virtuous cycle of trust

I'm sure many of the stories are from people just wanting to be better teachers, going from good to
great or better. I'll be honest, though, that when I started teaching at my current school, my teaching
reviews were poison

threateningly bad. So, of course, I panicked, but I wasn't sure what to
do different. I wasn't teaching differently than I had at the previous school, where my reviews were, if
not wonderful, they were fine. So, I started sitting in on colleague
s classes, but that didn't help much. I
didn't see anything they were doing that was all that different from what I was doing. But I persevered.
I wish I could tell you of some epiphany that helped, but I don't think there was one. There has,
however, been

a virtuous cycle of trust and accommodation. Here's what I mean. When I started out, a
colleague reminded me that if I wasn't firm, the students would walk all over me, so I tried hard to be
tough. That, I guess, worked okay at the first place, but at the

second place, the students seemed to
want to be trusted more. I would, for example, grant more extensions when they claimed that they
were too busy to get the assignment done by the deadline. I would consult the students about when to
have things due. Jus
t last week, I told my students that having assignments due at 5:00 on Friday
wasn't working (they were skipping the 2:50
4:00 class in order to do the homework), and when
should we move the due
time to. They vote for Saturday at 5:00, voting down Friday a
t 2:50 and
Friday at 9pm. So, they sacrificed their Saturday, but they chose it, and I feel like they appreciated
that. This seems to be a virtuous cycle, because the more I trust them, and the more control I give
them, the more they seem to deserve it:. T
hey take the course seriously and they do want to do the
work. They, in turn, seem to trust me more that I'm trying to deliver the best course I can.

I hope you find this story useful.

22. Engaging students in textbook reading

I had been lecturing as my standard practice and getting mediocre result on student exams. I did all
the preparation, and although I assigned textbook readings, students generally waited until I told them
what as really important in the reading. I did all
the preparation. I wanted students to do the
preparation that I did. In the summer of 2004 I particiipated in a writing across the curriculum
workshop and a subsequent train the trainer session. I adopted the reading response question
techniques from WAC t
o my textbook reading and used the student responses as the basis of in
discussion based on important concepts. Students engaged the material more than once and had to
pick the important information with guided but open
ended questions. Generally, te
st results

23. Blogging for assessment

We started teaching an existing optional module on internet culture and communities to level 3
students. The assessment required the students to complete a portfolio of reflective responses to a
n of the topics covered in the module. The idea was that the students would complete these as
the module progressed and get formative feedback but there was no clear mechanism for this to take
place. At the time (several years ago) we were exploring bloggi
ng personally but this was not
commonly used in teaching. Given the nature of the module we decided that it would be appropriate
for students to keep a blog about their learning on the module and we made this part of the assessment
(to replace the reflecti
ve portfolio). The students were given some guidance as to appropriate topics to
blog about and the blogs were in the public domain. They were also told that they would receive
formative feedback on their blogs at specific points in the module. This approa
ch worked very well.
Most students did maintain the blog throughout the module rather than producing it retropectively and
we were therefore better able to provide formative feedback. The assessment also became much more
relevant to the subject matter and
introduced the students first hand to internet communities. An added
bonus was that in some cases students had the opportunity to interact with people outside of the
course who had found their posts and responded to them. This was a strong motivation for t
students. We presented our experiences of this at a number of workshops and conferences and we are
aware of the approach being adopted by colleagues elsewhere.

24. Encouraging creativity

Repeated disappointment with senior projects led us to think d
eeply about our curriculum. We
decided a major issue was less technical and more imaginative

our students were not choosing to be
creative and adventurous in their choices of the project even though they were allowed to do anything
they were interested

The result was modifying our curriculum as a whole to emphasize more creativity. In our earlier
programming courses, an A could not be achieved without students exhibiting more effort and
pushing a project beyond the basic specs. We designated a few o
f our elective (to ourselves, not our
students) as research
based courses. In these courses we introduced topics, such as genetic algorithms,
and then turned most of the cours over to the students to build their own projects, to read and present
the litera
ture, and to discuss new ideas. We added more structure to our senior seminar to ask for
timelines and student presentations of work related to their project.

The net result of our effort has been pretty positive, with a definite increase in the quality o
f student
projects and, we think, to the creative and inventive aspects of our graduating students.

Now that it has been going for awhile, our challenge is to make sure we keep the curriculum sharp to
keep pushing our students. It isn't clear to me we are

doing as well now as we were doing five or six
years after our change.

25. Learning Preferences

Learning Preferences

I attended a keynote lecture about learning preferences and VARK as part of staff development. This
really made me think about how st
udents learn and made me reflect on the utility of using only
powerpoint and lecture delivery in certain sessions. As a result of this I have radically changed all my
teaching to take account of different learning preferences and use multi
media approaches

blended learning activities to engage students with diverse ranges of abilities, skills and learning
styles. In classroom teaching I consciuosly try to vary activities to take account of this diversity in the
student group

26. Module evaluations wor

The most recent experience I have of changing my practice comes from student feedback

formal and some informal.

I asked the students to complete a midway evaluation of the module I was leading. I did not get a
large volume of returns, only aro
und 25% of the class, however from those I got, there were some
similar comments which were focused on making clear the differences between the subject that I was
teaching and the clinical application. I was surprised

I had worked really hard to delibera
tely merge
the two in order that the students could see the relevance of the subjcet to their own practice. However,
it becqame apparent that the students could not see where the theoretical subject finished and their
practice began, and this was causing t
hem concerns and some confusion.

So, I changed some slides for the next week lecture, made a point of emphasising the differences
between the theory and practice at the srat of the session, at times during, and then again at the end,
and then followed thi
s up be relating back to the differences when I when itno the tutorial at the next
teachign session.

I know that the differences in my approach worked because the class rep spoke to me after the class
and thanked me for taking on board the comments which
she was aware had been made in some of the
feedback. My plan now is to continue flagging up the difference between theory and practice while
continuing to ensure that I always make sense of the material with the students. I plan to monitor this
again at th
e end of the module to see how it might have helped (or otherwise) the students with their

27. Activity, Enjoyment, Purpose

In 1976, I went to the first Level I clinic (rugby) organised by the National Coaching Certification
Program of Canada.

I expected a lecture session with films and slides and talented coaches telling me
what they did and how I might copy them. What I received instead was an instruction to work with 3
other beginning coaches and a ball in a square that measured 10 yards by
10 yards. In this space I
learned how to perform all the basic skills of the game. Every so often, the head coach would stop the
practice, demonstrate a detail, usually with the participation of one of the learners who had performed
a specific set of actio
ns particularly well, but sometimes with a wayward performer whose mechanical
skills were typical of a specific class of learner who showed a specific and common error. The one on
one coaching allowed us to oberserve each other and ourselves. We discussed
and analysed our own
mistakes. We encouraged each other to perform better, quicker, in less and less space, sometimes
under the mental pressure of time limits or pressure limits or something similar. The coaching
sessions went from Friday night until Sunda
y afternoon. When I returned to my own lecture room the
following Monday, I divided the class into small groups and set them tasks which they could do on
their own, assessing and analysing one another. There was no more lecturing from the podium. As a
t, I found I had time to talk to each student and to understand where they were coming from and
what particular skill sets they possessed and what new skill sets they needed. I had the time and the
space to do this on an individual basis. To state that my
teaching had been radically altered in one
weekend is to sum up exactly what happened. Activity: the students were now always active; they no
longer made notes or sat and listened to me lecturing. Enjoyment: the students were engaged and
enjoyed their enga
gement in the new exercises I was forced to design specifically for them. Purpose:
exercises and corrections could be made one on one. Each class had a purpose: more, each execise
had a purpose and the students could see and uderstand, immediately, for the
mselves, the reasons why
things were happening and the purpose behind each drill. In addition, by listening to each other and
practicing together, they learned new team work skills and new methods of interpretation, judgement,
and analysis, things that we
talk about as teachers, but rarely obtain from our students. Coup de foudre:
a thunderbolt, a streak of lighning that lit up my skies and changed forever, not only me and my
teaching, but also the way in which my students learned.

28. Up, down, up: how a desire for improving teaching brought on change, depression, and more

This is a story of repeated change over a long period of time. In 2004, looking for somewhere to
present work I did in my further education college, I jo
ined a conference on Computer
Education. Finding such a community of people focused on education, and on documenting, testing,
sharing their practice, opened up immense possibilities both personally, of making my work
meaningful, and professionally

At the same time as I developed my work for students the context I was working in worsened. In an
attempt to improve the results (that is, the proportion of qualifying students) in colleges, without
funding the effort, increasingly close political contr
ol was exerted on further education colleges.
Particularly poor was a small
minded, tick
box approach to teacher training and inspection,
where "reflective practice" replaced scholarship and "shared practice" encouraged office politics. This
led to
a long period of work
related stress, starting precisely at a time when computer science
education offered me a little funding and recognition: possibilities were closing as they were opening.

Returning from depression I found myself obliged to reduce my
work to part
time. Work to share
outside my college resumed in earnest. I wanted to transform my approach to teaching and turn
around the bitter, demoralised impression that office politics, government interference, and
underfunding left me with; I also wa
nted to create enough recognition for my work, to be able to find
an alternative post in a university, where a larger academic community would support my desire to
work more meaningfully.

More conferences allowed me to maintain contact with a computer sci
ence education community, and
to join one "creative commons" on teaching databases. This was exhilarating. I returned to teaching
with new ideas, a sense of shared purpose, and a growing desire to improve the teaching with the
ideas exchanged there.

The c
ommons paid off in one more way. I have now found a post in a University

a direct result of
the personal transformation brought on by many years of determined search for ways to serve and
support students. I am hoping to continue developing my teaching a
nd my desire to support young

29. Research informing practice in relation to the development of Graduate skills and capacities.

I was recently involved in a research project funded by a HEA subject centre focusing on Employer
Perceptions of Grad
uate Skills and

Graduate Identities, which involved about 150 companies in my region covering the full range: small,
medium and large, public and private etc. The feedback derived from key individuals in these
companies was instrumental in identifying whi
ch skills and attributes/attitudes employers actually
value, and how they value these on appointment, after 6 months and after a full year. The results were
quite surprising in many ways and have begun to inform employability strategies at University level
They have also influenced my own approach to teaching and learning

we now have a much clearer
picture of what employers actually value and I have begun to engage UG students in dicussing the
project findings, many of which focus on what might be loosel
y termed 'professional capacitie and
attitudes', as opposed to 'skills' or 'knowledge' per se. This enables UG students to develop a more
robust grasp of the link between their academic studies their personal development and how both
can/should prepare the
m for the world of work and employment. I guess this is a good example of
research feeding directly into practice, and an important reflection of the research
led approach to
teaching encouraged by my University. I am now starting to plan for 2011/12 and t
he insights
provided by this project will continue to re
shape and inform the way that I build and develop
students' skills and capacities in future modules.

30. Encouraging positive mindsets to help students to program

While visiting Quintin Cutts in G
lasgow related to public engagement we chatted about teaching
programming which we are both also involved in. He mentioned about Dweck's mindsets and an
experiment he had done with the first years that suggested giving open mindset messages had a
nt effect on their results. I decided to include the ideas in an informal way as it also tied in
with other things I do such as telling anecdotes arguing skills are about hard work and having the
strength of will to avoid temptetaion that students have tol
d me was life changing for them.

In early lectures I made it clear that my view was that programming is not about talent but hard work
and anyone can program. The context is that students come to first year programming with very wide
background experience
s so it appears to them that some are naturally good and others not. It is a large
module with about 160 students.

I reinforced this message throughout the term whenever the opportunity came up. I also added notes
to feedback sheets about the fact that ev
en if they had done badly, if they worked hard and made use
of the feedback they could still become good programmers.

The end of term results were the best I have had (though there were other things I did in parallel so it
cant definitely attributed to th
is). Virtually all students who took the summer exam passed and the
proportion getting top grades because they demonstrated they could write programs and explain
concepts was high. Even at Christmas the grades were noticably higher and it was stunning how
could write programs well in exam conditions even at that stage.

31. (Dis)engagement and personally meaningful education

I had a student come to my office during my first term teaching. She was having a hard time in her
2nd year of univeristy, was
shifting from Science to Social Sciences, and was struggling. She was in
an introductory Human Geography class, and she felt lost, not connecting to the material. We were
touching on international issues, and she admitted to me that she JUST DIDN'T CARE. I

was stunned
that she was so honest, and could not respond to her honesty with anything but compassion, even
though I was at a loss to imagine how an intelligent person could be so disconnected from social and
environmental injustices and suffering that we
re our topics. I asked the student to tell me what she
looked at when she got online; "I only go online to check email". I asked her what section of the
newspaper she read; "I don't read the newspaper, unless it is the local one from my small hometown."
y do you read that newspaper?, I asked; "Because it's about people I know and it has direct
relevance on my own life."

I designed an assignment for that class where students were asked to consider a "favourite place" and
use it to explore and consider a w
ide range of geographic concepts. I did this because I believe that
when learning is made personal, it is also made more meaningful. I encouraged the student to choose
her own home town as her favourite place, and to begin to think about how globalized pro
cesses are
affecting things like local agricultural systems. I then told the class that whenever they read about
natural disasters or social unrest, to try to imagine what it would feel like if these were happening in
their "favourite place," explaining th
at other people would feel as connected to their places as we each
are to ours. It was like a lightbulb going on when they could find that point of connection with people
a world away.

My initial instinct was to respond poorly to this student, as I had a
hard time finding compassion for
someone who openly admitted that they couldn't understand why people in Canada cared that a
tsunami in Asia and the Phillipines killed hundreds of thousands of people. I connected to her in her
context, and tried to show he
r ways to connect to others. I can proudly say that this is one of my
greatest acheivements as a professor, and this student has since expertly completed projects on the
experiences of conflict on youth in Northern Ireland, women's and children's rights in

the developing
world, and gender violence in Latin America.

I learned from this student that I can assume nothing about my student's engagement, understanding
of "global citizenship", and interest in the world around them. I can, however, show interest i
n their
personal experiences, show them how they are meaningful places to begin academic exploration, and
suggest ways that those personal experiences can help make meaningful connections in a global

32. the challenge of teaching threshold concep

teaching about threshold concepts

my colleagues and i were teaching about threshold concepts to teachers within the FE sector with the
aim to help them see the threshold concepts that appear in their own curriculum areas.we had read
articles about the conept and found it difficult to find
a process to share the importance of threshold
concepts within a subject to our learners. we felt very challenged. a chance conversation over the
phone with my colleague when we tried to unpack the ideas led me to a discussion around teaching
chefs (my ori
ginal curriculum area) and how important it was for them to select the right pan and heat
source to make a dish. so fast cooking required a wok and a gas flame. however what i was really
teaching was about the transfer of heat and how different metals supp
ort or inhibit this process
(physics). pans are therefore devised for a specific purpose. relating threshold concepts back to my
original teaching made me able to 'see' the concept. almost immediatly i was able to put together a 3
hr session called 'pots a
nd pans and troublesome knowledge'. we delivered this session the following
weeks to 36 learners who loved the activites and were able at the end of the session to relate this back
to their own area of work, pick out the threshold concepts and also identif
y the challenges teaching
these aspects of their curriculum brought.

33. Virtual facilitation

I facilitated reflection upon critical incidents in work situations. After some years I decided that I
would not meet the students, as the other module staff d
id, and would relate purely virtually. I only
met the students after the results for my part of the module had been declared. I did not provide a bio
or a photograph. In open ended feedback, I received frequent messages endorsing the "virtual only"
nship, and several which said "It was much easier to tell you about things that worried me,
when you were just a name at the foot of a screen."

34. Ethics of 'help'

I haven't really had occasion to use this story to change my practise, it is more some
thing that opened
up all sorts of questions about collaboration for me, which could go in some far
reaching directions,
in terms of the increasing use of on
line tools such as wikis, etc., and the simultaneous concern about

as so often in life
, one and the same phenomena seem to go in schizophrenically opposite

This involves a postgraduate course within the Open University; I tutored on this until last year. This
time taught MA (the only part
time one in its discipline in the
UK) involves 3 different courses,
each lasting a year. The final year course is the Dissertation, so for this course my tutorial duties
involved supervising the students' 16
18,000 word dissertations. At this time students could get either
a 'clear fail',
which meant they could resit the course (once only), a 'bare fail', which meant they could
resubmit without resitting the course, a 'pass' or a 'distinction'.

Two years ago I had a student on this final year of the MA course, who was deeply dyslexic and w
claimed also to be 'dyspraxic', and thus not able to use computers

really problematic as the OU is
about distance learning, and this student lived 500 miles away from me (I never actually met her), so
electronic communications are really important. Th
is second issue was somewhat resolved by her
husband acting as amanuensis, reading and printing my email messages, and putting her work into MS
Word via dictation, helping with formatting of references, etc. And I did lengthy written summaries of
all our m
any phone conversations.

She was a very difficult customer indeed with a long history within the OU as I subsequently
discovered, of complaints and demands to be switched to different tutors (in one case, involving then
a demand to be switched again to th
e original tutor!)(She had done her UG degree with the OU also.)
Resisting her desire that I only tell her how brilliant she was, not what she needed to change, involved
me in some very stressful discussions with her.

Her written expression was poor, invo
lving much use of inappropriate jargon, incomplete sentences
etc. Her structuring of lines of discussion was also very poor, often 'back to front' as can be typical of
dyslexics, and often involving a great deal of fairly irrelevant detail, sidetracks, etc

HOWEVER... she was also a born researcher. In the end she accessed all sorts of unpublished
archives, which few other students do at this level. From talking with her I knew that she understood
what was significant about them, in terms of the basic appr
oaches this MA course inculcated, and
which students did have to show they were aware of. In fact her central thesis was full of interest, and
involved subject matter which had not been treated in an up
date way at all. Her approach
genuinely made a sta
rt on redressing this. It could easily have led, I felt, to very interesting and
fruitful research at PhD level.

So to summarise

we have a student who is highly intelligent, who understands the texts she is
reading in terms of quite sophisticated issues
, who has a real knack for researching (knowing which
archives are relevant, how to handle archivists! etc etc). But whose written expression is very poor
indeed, both in detail and in the large sense of structuring a coherent discussion.

We got through t
o her final draft, with hours and hours and hours of work on my part as she had to be
given feedback in very specific types of formats. (But with hours and hours of work on her and her
husband's part also, while simultaneously helping out a daughter with s
erious health problems to care
for a granddaughter.)

At this point she submitted the 400
word 'Abstract' required, which is the very first item the second
reader would encounter. This was appallingly badly
written. We had many drafts back and forth but
l her changes always seemed to make things worse.


and this is the point of this story

I finally rewrote the Abstract myself, from beginning to end,
though sticking with the student's phraseology, etc, as much as I possibly could. I certainly did no
change what I felt was the student's INTENDED line of discussion. I looked on this in fact, as a work
of translation, and thus justified it to myself. Unfortunately the task of writing a concise, coherent
SUMMARY of her actual achievement,

which I stil
l feel was admirable!

was simply one she could
not deal with because of the nature of her processing problems. I knew that the Abstract would be the
first thing the second reader would read. I also knew that starting their assessment of that MA with her
version of the Abstract would be really damning, and the thought of this student failing was just a risk
I did not want to take.

But I still don't know whether this was the right thing to do, and the second marker's comments made
me particularly uneasy. B
asically, she said that this MA was almost at Distinction level, because of
the quantity and quality of the research; only the basic line of argument seemed not quite to achieve
Distinction level. I had to ask myself at that point, what would her report ha
ve said, had I not
rewritten that Abstract? I think it would have been quite a different story. Discussing this with a friend
who tutored undergrads. in the same brick Uni I'd worked in, she had a very similar story

a student
who was deeply dyslexic, but

very bright, who ended up getting a FirstClass mark on their undergrad.

with a LOT of help from my friend!

Both of these stories do have worrying implications, because I know that decisions about who to
admit to PhD programmes, can be base
d on looking at undergrad. dissertations, to say nothing of MA
ones. Later that year, by chance I found myself in company with a whole bunch of senior academics
in a completely different discipline (a science one) from various higher
ed institutions in the

(including Stanford and Harvard if I remember rightly). I asked them if they ever had similar
problems with students on taught MA programmes, and it was as if I'd opened a floodgate. Everyone
had similar stories. Broaching this subject on the on
line f
orum for all the tutors on the OU course,
had similar results, and also started quite a passionate debate on the ethical issues involved.

35. As a student I need lots of small brain breaks

At the end of every course I teach, I always do a retrospective.

So a workshop with the students that
looks at what occured on the course (so a nice revision) as well as understanding what worked well,
what didn't work so well and what remained a bit puzzling to the students. We do this exercise with
the intent of me c
hanging the course for the next time the course is run, and I normally tell a story
about what a previous group of students has changed for the course I am currently teaching. This is an
example of one change I made.

The course is a week long and squeezes

a full semester into a week (9am to 5.30pm). The feedback
from the students was that it was too tiring ... and as we dug into that in more detail, it was that 3 x 30
min case study presentations was too much for them to handle without a break, it was too
intense. At
the time the course was cut into 90 minute chunks with 30 min breaks in between and a 60 minute
break for lunch. The simple change I made was to adjust the sessions so it was a 60 min chunk with
15 min breaks in between ... this pace works much


36. Can't get digital precision in an analog world

In Artificial Intelligence, after the first round of assigning projects on LEGO robots, i realized that
robots are as imprecise as analog machines. So asking students to meet "strict digital
precision with
analog robots" was insane

students spent inordinate amounts of time "putzing" aroud with the robots
instead of learning the concepts. Solution: I asked them to thereafter "externalise" the state of software

37. Learning from (Com
putational) Singing

OK, so I have always played guitar and sang as a hobby, but never considered injecting this work into
my teaching. As I was walking my daughter in her stroller, I started singing a song that eventually
became "The Recursion Song" (whi
ch can go on forever, but rarely past ten verses :). I sang the song
for my wife, and she asked, "Well, why don't you sing this to you students?" I then replied, "Because I
really like my job." In other words, I was afraid that such an activity would not b
e viewed as
professional enough for my College.I think it was only a few weeks later that I discovered that a
professor in the physics department had been singing to his classes for years. Armed with this new
information, I started writing a few more songs

and singing them to the introductory courses on a
Friday as a reward. The students did not really laugh at me (as far as I could tell), but did laugh at
certain concepts were covered in the song, especially infinite loops and recursion. I even have a
uting carol about loop invariants.Once I had about five songs I sat down and began assessing the
impact of the songs on student attitudes. I was amazed about not only how popular they were but how
much they were appreciated. I composed and submitted a pape
r to a regional CCSC conference,
which not only was accepted but was awarded best paper. I have since been invited as a banquet
speaker/performer a couple of times, and even been able to get students to submit original work.In
other words, it seems that ef
fective ideas can come from the most unexpected places; moreover,
teaching students is more than providing material, but connecting in whatever way works.

38. From Crisis to CoreDogs

This may be too dramatic and broad to be of use, but here goes.

It st
arted in 1999, with infidelity, divorce, psychiatric treatment, ... nasty stuff. It caused me to think
about my life. I studied various topics in the mind sciences. That included moral psychology, the
study of how people decide on what is right and wrong.
Another field I studied was positive
psychology, particularly the parts about happiness. John Haidt's recent book summarizes the
implications of the research for average people.

I also read philosophy, particularly ethics. But I found it less useful.

I was studying, I started to rethink various aspects of my own life. That was the goal of the work in
the first place, so I suppose it worked. I realized that I had been failing in one of my main professional
duties: teaching. So was my university, and the

academic social system I was (and am) part of.

Students give us time and money, and trust us to help them build a future. We violate their trust.
Faculty focus their scholarly efforts on research. Teaching is something to be done as quickly as
so we can get back to the "real" work.

My response was to study the various disciplines that encompass learning science. Much is known
about learning, and how we can support learning. I discovered that I had not been doing a good job in
the classroom. I a
lso found that the standard textbooks for my field

information systems

support learning well.

After one false start, I decided to improve my intro Web courses. They are skill
building courses, and
the learning science literature has much to say
about how they should be organized. Some highlights:

* Deep learning. Think four chapters, not twelve. Help students learn to use a few concepts, rather
than memorizing many ideas without being able to apply them.

* Outcomes. Focus on what the students s
hould be able to do at the end of the course. Only include
material relevant to those goals.

* Feedback. Give students many exercises, and fast, formative feedback. That is, don't just give a
grade. Tell them what they did wrong, and give them a change to


* Personal help. Make sure there is an expert students can go to. The expert should be able to
diagnose students' misconceptions, and help correct them.

* Metacognition. What students think about their learning is important. Acknowledge their
Suggest how they might respond.

Doing these things requires a complete rethinking of the way intro Web tech courses are run. I
designed new courses and built an online tool to support this way of learning. I'm a geek, and am
fortunate to have

the skills to do that.

The tool is online at http://coredogs.com. It's free, and anyone is welcome to use it. BTW, I know that
this story is not anonymous any longer. That's OK with me.

The courses run like this.

Students work independently through an
"active book." The content follows guidelines from learning
research, e.g., simple language, concrete examples, appropriate use of media (e.g., Mayer's research),

The content has metacognitive elements. Two virtual students accompany the reader throu
gh the book.
These students model metacognition in various ways. For example, they challenge the author (me)
about the relevance of some of the content. They say when they're overwhelmed with new
information, and ask for help in dealing with it.

submit many exercise solutions. They enter their solutions directly into the content. There is
no artificial separation between content and application in CoreDogs. They work together naturally.

There is a sophisticated "grading" mechanism for instructors
. I used the quotes because assigning a
score is not the goal. The goal is to tell students exactly how their solutions are deficient, if they are.
Students get comments alongside their solutions, again embedded directly in the content. There's also
a disc
ussion thread for each exercise. Any user can share his/her experiences.

The instructor's feedback workflow is streamlined to within an inch of its life. I eliminated every
mouse click and keystroke I could. Each exercise has a rubric that is presented to grader, along with
the exercise, and a student's solution. This reduces r
ecall effort, and improves feedback consistency.

Getting the feedback system right was very important. Most faculty are not rewarded for teaching.
That will not change, at least not very quickly. I wanted to let faculty improve their teaching, without
nding a huge amount of time on it. With CoreDogs, there is no need for a professor to sacrifice
his/her research career to improve teaching. Maybe that should be a slogan: "CoreDogs

martyrdom needed." :

How does the time trade
off work? The extra t
ime spent on feedback is compensated for by the
elimination of lectures. But that only works because the feedback system is streamlined.

There's much more to CoreDogs than I will explain here. Details are on the site at coredogs.com.

The CoreDogs Way has

incredible potential. A few faculty could get together and create a
pedagogically effective active book. Just by themselves, no publisher needed. They could sell the
book for maybe 20% of the price of a traditional text, and make a handsome profit.

If ma
ny small faculty teams did this? A better HE system, without requiring institutional change.

So there's the story. You can attribute it if you want. Let me know if you have any questions.

Oh, and I'd like to get instructors to try CoreDogs, and give me f
eedback to improve it. It costs them
nothing. If you have ideas about how I might contact intro Web tech instructors, please let me know.

Kieran Mathieson


39. A Plan a Day Keeps the Naps Away

so one semester i decided that i should

actually be reflective and i decided that one of my goals had
been to be a really active teacher, but i wasn't doing that.

so i decided i should have a plan for one of my classes that was to include active learning exercises
(something active) in every c
lass that semester.

it worked!

in my lesson plans i specifically thought about the content and what would be an active way of
connecting to that content for every class. sometimes it would be something happening at the
beginning, sometimes the middle, so
metimes the end.

because i had it planned, it was something that was seamless in the presentation of the class as
opposed to a "hmm.. i wonder what I could do?"

this took a couple years of teaching to realize i had to actually plan this in my teaching. o
k this is
EXACTLY when we're going to do think/pair/share, this is exactly when i'm going to have them walk
through problems, this is exactly when we're going to do group problem solving.

i taught this class for five years, and that one semester of planni
ng had an impact on the class every
time i taught it.

it was totally worth it.

40. Lighting a fire

I was reading a book and stumbled upon a quote that was written in one of the margins: "Teaching is
not filling a bucket; it's lighting a fire". This re
ally resonated with me in my role as a computer
science lecturer. I constantly spent time worrying about "covering" all of the material in class. There
just never seemed to be enough time to get through all the nitty
gritty syntactical details that are
essary to successfully becoming competent in many of the objectives of the course. However, once
I read that quote, I began to realize that my job is really to create moments for the students where they
want to learn these details, rather than simply lectu
ring about the details themselves. My lecture plans
shifted from talking about semi
colons and parenthesis to outlining interesting program ideas/usage
scenarios/reasons to want to write a program and then developing the code in real time. Students are
ll exposed to syntax in lecture, but I truly believe my most important objective is to get them
excited enough about the possibilities being able to write programs affords that it movtivates them to
seek out and understand the syntactical details through p
ractice on their own time.

41. modelling it and thinking out loud

I was running a three hour workshop for the tird time to get students (who were also associate
teachers gaining a basic teaching qualification)

getting them to prepare for an assessment

focused on dealing with diversity in the classroom. It was a very diverse group (experience,
nationality, discipline, level of commitment to teaching, ideas and assumptions about teaching). I had
run the session three times before for other cohorts a
nd the format seemed fine. Input by me, set up
work groups of three where they work on each other's critical incidents (so, asking them to tell their
story .... perhaps that is why I thought of this for this exercise). They got back the advice from their
olleagues, each group got to see and work on three different issues, and they applied the advice I
gave beforehand. Except the last thing didnt happen. The results were always disappointing in terms
of product, underpinning rationale, any kind of theory...
.. all the stuff I had provided before they write
their story and workshopped each other's stories. . They didnt use the input to give advice to the
person who wrote the story. They didnt pay attention to the assessment criteria which I has signalled.

fell back on quick conclusions, facile advice and steroetyping. So, I added a middle bit:
modelling one myself. Then and there. I thought out loud, made overt links to the input. Referred to
the assessment criteria as I worked through the template. I wrot
e up points on the whiteboard and
stepped back and modelled reflection. Not just acting it, but doing it (I hope) though with a more
theatrical slant perhaps. The assessments were better for this group

richer reflection, more theory,
wider set of options

etc. But then it could just be a bettter group.

42. Putting the spotlight on context in engineering design

I was tasked with revamping and teaching an intro to engineering design course for pre
bound undergraduates. One substantial, new component of the course was an emphasis
on consideration of contextual factors in engineering design, a top
ic that previous offerings of the
course had not covered much. My decision to make this change in the course was mainly for two
reasons. First, my research background in engineering education focuses on the importance and
relative lack of consideration of
context by undergraduate engineering students. Second, recognizing
that conventional engineering courses (which most of my students would go on to take) tend not to
discuss consideration of context, I wanted this intro course's content to supplement this c

p.s. The intro to engineering design course is slated for cancellation due to budget cuts. Discussion
about how to reconfigure the course has been all but cancelled.

43. For the love of teaching.

Teaching was always a trip for
me except for one activity, grading, in particular final exams. "Who
the hell taught them this non
sense?" I repeatedly asked myself. Then I made a change. I started
"buying" courses. For a small nominal fee, and a little story about teaching research, I w
as` given a
reduced teaching load. The less I taught the more enjoyable teaching became.

44. 'Recycling' graduate experience in to undergraduate teaching

I invited one of my graduates in to address current undergrtad's; it made me think what a HUGE
ource our graduates represent in terms of sharing current material with students, showing them
what careers may be open to them, and being able to be 'nosey' in asking recent graduates things like

'do you like your job', 'how much do you earn'?!

It's ma
de me 'use' graduates much more purposefully in teaching for

placements, live project visits,
live assessment tasks, guest lectures, field trips etc.

It also means that I keep the link with graduates......and they are invariably flattered to be asked.

45. Teaching a course no
one likes

Initially, I optimistically believed that all students should be interested in my courses. By "should" I
mean that either they are, or I am supposed to make them interested. Until one year I was assigned a
course that
virtually no
one liked, including myself. And then a miraculous thing happened: sharing
the dislike to the course with my students, I could finally understand that you can make classes
enjoyable and useful, without making students like the course. The appr
oach we took was to fight the
monster together, and it worked. The brotherhood of fighters emerged effortlessly: I think we all liked
the classes even if we did not like the topic. And I am sure students benefited quite a lot.

This incient made me change
my approach to disinterested students. I simply focus on preparing them
to the exam: they notice this immediately, and appreciate it. This makes them more willing to
cooperate and sometimes even develop a taste for the subject.

46. Individual differences

in preference for sound animation

When giving lectures (as a postgraduate) I used to play around with the animation on powerpoint
quite a bit, and had text swooshing in, and had sounds attached to the text coming in, and I remember
being observed by my
Head of Dept. who at the end, gave feedback on the lecture as a whole (which
was generally good) and then said 'and for God's sake, get rid of those noises every time a bullet point
comes in!' When I went back to my office (feeling rather embarrassed), I p
layed through the lecture
and realised that this was, indeed, very annoying and did not look very professional. I have not since
added sound animation to my slides when lecturing (unless specifically an audio clip, like an extract
from a song or something)
. What was particularly interesting about this experience, is that as part of
the observations (which were for my PG Cert in Learning and Teaching in HE) I also asked the
students to reflect on 3 negative and 3 positive aspects of the lecture, and having r
ead the comments at
the end of the lecture in week 2, and week 3, it turned out that some of the students had liked these
noises as it kept them engaged and awake (it was statistics lecture at 9am in the morning), whilst other
had really disliked them.

. Case study questions

Have you tried giving students the questions but not the case study which underpins them? Maybe this
mainly applies to business type programmes, but it could well have an application to other discipines.
The normal approach is to p
rovide a case study, let the students do some research and understand it
fully, then provide some questions in an examination for them to answer. The problems with this
approach are twofold: firstly it is very easy for the majority of students to predict t
he questions, if not
exactly then the broad target area. Secondly it focuses the students' attention on the specific case study
as opposed to giving them an understanding of the models and tools needed to respond to a more
general situation. There is proba
bly a third disadvantage in that the work submitted will be very
lengthy and will often be really boring to read after the first 20 scripts.

On one occasion (and I can't remember why) I did it the other way round

I provided the questions a
few days in a
dvance, but not the case study. The questions were naturally anonymised, so I couldn't
say "What techniques did Richard Branson use.....?". Of course I had to provide a case study that was
sufficiently short to be able to read and digest in a relatively sh
ort period of time, but I found that the
great advantage of this approach was that students couldn't predict the case study, therefore they had
to know much more about the problem solving techniques in order to succeed. That meant that
"mugging up" was not

possible, and only students with a genuine understanding of the subject could
apply their learning. The results were a lot less lengthy (because the reading/digesting time had to be
taken out of the exam so I couldn't ask for as much

yet I got a wider s
pread of marks), and the
variation was a lot more interesting.

This system also meant that I could genuinely test some of the learning outcomes of both the award
and the module

outcomes such as fast evaluation of a situation, synthesis in reading, focusing on the
key elements of a question, organising a competent an
swer at short notice.....

In fact, this approach was also favoured by (many) students because it prevented any form of
collusion or prior preparation of answers, and it was much more akin to a real
life situation where a
boss will ask for a report this ev
ening (or yesterday) and he/she doesn't want to read reams of
extraneous material before getting to the heart of the matter.

It probably works best with level 6 and 7 students, and as I say is more appropriate for some
disciplines than others, but it's a
great way of cutting down on your marking whilst providing a bigger
spread of marks within the group.

48. Assessment Kills Learning.

Assessment kills learning. That's my conclusion after delivering a series of modules in H.E. where all
the students focu
s on is on the assignment. From day 1, it's question after question about the
assessment! What am I doing about this? I am starting a new module (Qualitative Modelling

computer models and simulations in education) and I am not going to give the students
the assessment;
(not on day one anyway). I am going to set session activities and follow up patchwork activities which
they need to complete and upload to their eportfolio. I shall provide feedback and further suggestions
(to help their learning). I want s
tudents to synthesise learning across the module outcomes and build
on the 'headroom' that is built in to those modules (in other words, they can attain the basic threshold,
but I want them to aspire to bigger and better things). Anyhow, they won't know wh
ich of the
patchwork activities counts towards the assessment, because I am not going to tell them. The weekly
activities will provide the learning opportunities and the formative techniques which (when mastered)
will contribute a fair bit to the final ass
ignment. I will however, need to provide assignment details
probably half
way through the course; but certainly not on day 1.

49. Moving to concentrated learning and teaching

For many years I used the lecture
seminar format when teaching sociology. I h
ave taught other
subjects where such a format was used far less frequently. Anyhow it occurred to me that I was
spending too much time teaching/speaking in lectures and students were not spending enough time
learning and showing their learning to each othe
r and me. This was not a matter of simply increasing
the amount of group work. So I decided that where I could I would shift the module to asingle weekly
two hour slot, would discuss with colleagues teaching on the modules how we could use this time
. That was not a problem as my colleague on the two modules concerned for undergraduates
and several colleagues on the three slot we do in evenings for postgraduates were keen on this.

So we changed. Now the lecture part might come mid way thorugh the ses
sion, or even at the end of
the session. It rarely comes at the start. Now we ask students to bring their reading and issues to the
sessions. This was scary

would they do it?

I intorduced a fair bit of formative assessment

the two undergraduate module
s have three peices off
ormative assessment each as well as online support. They do turn up

attendance has not dropped
below 78% in any session for five years now. Pass rates have remained constant but the numbewr
securing 60+ final mark has improved and

has doen so within reasonabel limits. Thus the 40+
category has moved markedly closer to the high 40s and it is non
participants who fail. The 50s are
distributed as before and the 60+ have moved away from the 60/61 line and we have more clear mid

xternal examiners have all been happy with the two modules concerned. Both are on historical
comparative sociology

It is not dissimilatr with the taught postgrad modules which ar eon philosophy of research for social

50. Guided Slides

Several y
ears ago, I taught in a classroom with no white or chalk boards. So that I could write
examples for the students, I started using a tablet PC and Classroom Presenter from the U. of
Washington. This has evolved into a set of "guided slides" that are partial
ly completed that I finish in
lecture, and posted soon thereafter. Students routinely report that this approach is better than pre
completed slides.

51. Using Student Exam files to your advantage

At my university, there is a substantial student cultur
e of "examination files", mostly maintained by
the fraternities and sororities on campus. This puts extra pressure on instructors (well, at least the
conscientious ones) to continually change their exams from term to term, for fear that students will
y memorize old answers and repeat them by rote, without really 'learning' the material.

My 'typical' exam for a course has a variety of types of questions, at different levels of Bloom's
taxonomy and/or difficulty. While the larger, more open
ended questi
ons clearly are less amenable to
rote memorization, the simpler questions usually are, which makes it even more critical to keep
changing them.

Or so I used to think.

A few years ago, it occurred to me that, for those sort of simple "rote recall" questio
ns, it didn't really
matter whether or not they had appeared on previous exams. If the students learned the answer, did it
matter whether or not they learned it from my notes, or the textbook, or from an old exam? Not really.
The important point was that s
tudents learned the material, not that they had learned it while sitting in
my particular class.

This particular story was prompted by Henry Walker's comment at the "Sharing Stories" session at
SIGCSE. He noted that it's not really important what we say;
what's really important is what they
learn. It was also prompted by another remark from someone else about using student behaviors (e.g.
cellphone, laptop use in class) to our advantage.

52. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in student programming

A few years back, I participated through the University of Washington Tacoma campus in a