Ideas on Teaching and Learning

This is a collection of pointers to content on teaching and learning that I've found provocative and/or informative.
  1. Peer Instruction 
    Peer Instruction (PI) is based on idea that peers often do a better job explaining things to each other than a professor using expert language and terminology.  Traditional lecture is turned into mini-lectures and follow-on questions, where students discuss and the professor is more moderator than lecturer.  Research shows that Peer Instruction leads to better grades, retention, and student satisfaction.  Even when Peer Instruction is done poorly, it leads to better results than the highest-rated lecturers. [From Joe Hummel] 
    Peer Instruction was popularized by Harvard Physics professor Eric Mazur.  See his American Journal of Physics article.  Want to get started using peer instruction? Here is a page with getting-started explanations as well as links to papers about peer instruction in CS: [again thanks to Joe Hummel]
    See the seven teaching practices that I use to help my peer instruction, and the included links to a demo lesson.

  2. Students using laptops or tablets during class retain less of the material, as do the students around them according to studies described in this report. [Thanks to Pat Troy]  
    This New York Times article by Tim Herrera refers to a Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology article showing that drawing helps you remember, even more so than writing.  

  3. Felder-Silverman Learning Styles.  One can fill out 44 questions online and get an assessment of preferred learning styles, along with descriptions and recommendations on how best to study as a result.  This link was referenced from the notes of a Virginia Tech course on Problem Solving for Computer Science.

  4. "Why Do Americans Stink At Math?" by Elizabeth Green.  New York Times Magazine, July 23, 2014.  [Thanks to Don Yanek]
    Personal highlights that struck me: 
    1. The comedian Louis C.K. parodied his daughters’ homework in an appearance on “The Late Show With David Letterman”: “It’s like, Bill has three goldfish. He buys two more. How many dogs live in London?”
    2. [Lampert] replaced “I, We, You” with a structure you might call “You, Y’all, We.” Rather than starting each lesson by introducing the main idea to be learned that day, she assigned a single “problem of the day,” designed to let students struggle toward it — first on their own (You), then in peer groups (Y’all) and finally as a whole class (We). The result was a process that replaced answer-getting with what Lampert called sense-making.
    3. "Dan Lortie calls the phenomenon the apprenticeship of observation. Teachers learn to teach primarily by recalling their memories of having been taught."
    4. In Japan, teachers had always depended on jugyokenkyu, which translates literally as “lesson study,” a set of practices that Japanese teachers use to hone their craft. A teacher first plans lessons, then teaches in front of an audience of students and other teachers along with at least one university observer. Then the observers talk with the teacher about what has just taken place.

  5. Paul Graham (computer scientist, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, author, essayist) wrote an excellent speech "What You'll Wish You'd Known" for a high school graduation, with insightful comments debunking the superficial "Follow your Dreams" slogan, talking about finding important problems, and curiosity, and not buying into default systems of thinking.

  6. "We Can Code It: Why Computer Literacy is Key to Winning the 21st Century."  Mother Jones, ~July 2014.  [Thanks to Joanna Goode]
    Computational Thinking and Problem Solving have wide applications.

  7. "The Secret History of Women in Coding" (New York Times, Feb 13th, 2019) describes how in 1984 37% of CS majors were female, with that percentage falling since then due to marketing computers to boys, stereotypes of nerds in a cubicle, the "Brogrammer" culture, technology careers being unfriendly to families, and confusing people's ability with preparatory privilege.

  8. "Who Gets To Graduate" by Paul Tough.  New York Times, May 15th 2014.  [Thanks to Pete Nelson]
    Talks about a "growth-mindset" vs. a "fixed-mindset."  Gives results on how a one hour intervention drastically improved the number of otherwise at-risk students scoring in the top quarter of their class.

  9. "Have Smart Phones Destroyed a Generation?" by Jean Twenge.  The Atlantic, September 2017.  [Thanks to Kathy Matson]
    Shows correlation between social problems and cell phone social media use.  Includes compelling statements such as "Eighth graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who spend less time" and "Girls, especially hard hit, have experienced a 50 percent rise in depressive symptoms [between 2012-2015]."

  10. Aug 9, 1854: Thoreau Warns 'The Railroad Rides on Us' by Randy Alfred.  Wired, Aug 9, 2010.
    Technology comes at a price.  Are we aware of it?

  11. What characteristics are most important for top technology employees?  According to Google as reported in this Washington Post article, the top characteristics are all soft skills:
    1. Being a good coach; 2. Communicating and listening well; 3. Possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); 4. Having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; 5. Being a good critical thinker and problem solver; 6. Being able to make connections across complex ideas. 
    The last one is: 7. STEM expertise.

  12. Explore the difference between equality and equity in the form of images shown at
    Equality vs Equity