Wednesday, April 04, 2018

How To Teach Computer Science

How can I do a better job of teaching computer science? It’s a question I ask myself just about every day. There have been two big influences on my teaching style. The first was my first computer science teacher – Wally Roth of Taylor University. One thing we know is that most teachers tend to teach the way they were taught and using  what worked for them. That doesn’t work for everyone and worse still it ignore changes in knowledge of pedagogy and culture. During my first round of teaching I knew that I was not doing the best job possible. The best I could do with what I knew sure. But I knew I didn’t know enough. Nine years at Microsoft traveling around the country and meeting with other teachers taught me a lot. Much of it I use regularly today.

More recently I have been influenced a great deal by Mark Guzdial. Mark actually researches how to teach computer science. Not just “hey I think this is cool so teach this way” but actual scientific, peer-reviewed research. I use ideas from him all the time. His blog is a must read for me. 

Recently he gave a talk (viewable here on a lot of what he has studied. A couple of highlights are:

  • Teaching in context
  • Asking students to make predictions during demos
  • Sub goal labeling
  • Using examples and Parson’s Problems

As I learn more about how to use these techniques and figure out how to fit them into how I teach I am using them more and more. I recommend the video as there is a lot of good information in about 45 minutes of talk.

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