Computer Science Faculty Talk Teaching and Course Design – and You Can, Too!

computer science faculty work on course design
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Early this summer, several faculty from Duke’s Department of Computer Science met for three days to design or redesign courses and share experiences about teaching student teams. Duke Learning Innovation supported them by handling logistics for the meetings, arranging and inviting guest speakers, providing information on research-supported teaching practices and contributing ideas, and, of course, providing meals and snacks to fuel their work.

Faculty worked with a wide variety of courses, sharing their teaching experiences to help each other design, redesign or tweak courses. Courses discussed included introductory courses, a course to prepare undergraduate teaching assistants, and advanced programming and algorithms courses. Topics included facilitating group work, holding students to seven steps of programming and how to help students think through problems themselves instead of giving them the answer.

Reed Colver and Claire Parker Siburt, learning consultants from Duke’s Academic Resource Center, visited the faculty group to talk specifically about challenges students encounter while learning computer science. This exchange of ideas was so beneficial, participants stayed twice as long as scheduled to continue learning from each other!

We also talked with Michael Greene from Learning Innovation about Duke support for teaching tools, including Gradescope and tools to facilitate team work.

Participants included:
Robert Duvall
Brandon Fain
Jeff Forbes
Susan Rodger
Kristin Stephens-Martinez
Yesenia Velasco

How did they benefit? Here’s what they have to say now that the courses have started:

“I was designing a totally new team project course, and it was incredibly helpful to have time set aside with both learning experts and my colleagues to talk through how to structure that experience in the best way for our students. Afterward, I felt confident that I knew why we wanted to structure the course this way, and what to emphasize or avoid when implementing it.”

Brandon Fain

Having learning innovation there was a great help! Not only did they give us a structured time and place to work on our classes, they also helped me think through what I wanted to do for my class and gave me both one-on-one time and group facilitated time.

Kristin Stephens-Martinez

I agree, what a resource the Learning Innovation team is — having organized time to talk together, with timely guests to open up the discussion and planned activities to help develop our ideas, was critical to activating our ideas. Students in our classes this semester have certainly benefited from the suggestions for improvement they made and in-class activities we learned about.

Robert Duvall

Learning innovation certainly helped us in trying a new technique in the classroom, problem based learning, which is making this course more interactive in the classroom.

Susan Rodger

If you’d like to have Learning Innovation arrange a brief teaching retreat for faculty, or an extended fellowship program, please contact us.

Andrea Novicki

Author: Andrea Novicki

Andrea helps faculty teach effectively and efficiently. She works primarily with scientists, using her biology background, love of science and teaching experience. Her current enthusiasms include active learning, group learning (especially team-based learning) and assessment.