What everyone should know about teaching others


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In life, as computing professionals, we all teach and we all learn. And, especially in the computing discipline, we don't ever expect that to stop. So whether you plan to work in industry, academia, or somewhere else (a small desert island?) you should know more about what research shows contributes to effective learning. Use this knowledge to learn better yourself or to assist others in their learning.

From the Un-Distinguished Lecture Series (http://ws.cs.ubc.ca/~udls/). The talk was given Apr. 04, 2008.

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What everyone should know about teaching others

  1. 1. What everyone should know out how people learn Beth Simon Science Teaching and Learning Fellow UBC Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative and Univ. of California, San Diego
  2. 2. How un-distinguished is this? <ul><li>Ideas/Findings NOT anecdotal </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Consider how people (instructors you’ve have, yourself) approach research and teaching differently </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Goals: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Friday afternoon appropriate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Main ideas </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Prime discussion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A few tricks I couldn’t bear not to give you </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>References, follow-up on request </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. At the end of today you will be able to…* <ul><li>Tell a story about how constructivism is critical for learners and instructors to engage. </li></ul><ul><li>Describe how the brain changes when one learn something new </li></ul><ul><li>Describe best practices of expert tutors for eliciting learning </li></ul><ul><ul><li>especially regarding the value of motivation </li></ul></ul>These are examples of “learning goals” -- they are explicit, learner-focused, and something a newbie can tell whether they know or not immediately.
  4. 4. At the end of today you will be able to do… <ul><li>These things in the context of both </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Industry teams </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Teaching for traditionally in the classroom </li></ul></ul>These are examples of “learning goals” -- they are explicit, learner-focused, and something a newbie can tell whether they know or not immediately.
  5. 5. Who am I? <ul><li>Part of UBC’s Carl Wieman Science Education Inititative </li></ul><ul><ul><li>www.cwsei.ubc.ca </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>a five-year, $12M project at The University of British Columbia aimed at dramatically improving undergraduate science education </li></ul></ul><ul><li>CSE PhD from UC San Diego in architecture and compilers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>San Diego Supercomputer Center </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Professor in “education track” at UC San Diego </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Former faculty at Univ of San Diego -- PUI </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Research  Teaching <ul><li>Stop treating teaching as unknowable, anecdote-only pit of despair </li></ul><ul><li>Bring our research skills to it* </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Document the “current situation/nature” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify problems of interest/opportunities for optimization </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify hypotheses for making change </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop experiments, test, analyze results </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Report our findings to others </li></ul></ul>*Ask Beth for examples
  7. 7. Constructivism: How the Brain Works <ul><li>Learn This Number System </li></ul>
  8. 8. What’s this number?
  9. 9. Constructivism: How the Brain Works <ul><li>Learners: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Try to find analogies, things the new information is similar to </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify what problems it can be used to solve </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Compare and Contrast how it’s different from something you already know </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Instructors: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Do this FOR the person you are helping to learn </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consider real-world knowledge </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Commonsense Computing papers (ACM) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Learners and Instructors are rarely on the same page <ul><li>Think of a house that you spent a significant amount of time living in (maybe when you were a kid). </li></ul><ul><li>How many windows are in that house? </li></ul>Ask how many. Then ask everyone: --when you were counting, were in looking from outside or inside the house? --inside people: what room did you start in? --inside people: how did you get from room to room (through doors or teleporting?)
  11. 11. Learners and Instructors are rarely on the same page <ul><li>When trying to learn, explicitly check (ask, investigate) the assumptions and background the instructor has </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Likely they haven’t considered your viewpoint </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Recent Brain Science: Connections
  13. 13. Constructivism: The Winner <ul><li>People construct* new learning in the context of and connection with previously known things </li></ul><ul><li>You will learn most efficiently and retain and recall better if you make explicit and multiple connections to things you already know </li></ul>*Construct is an active word, oodles of research shows no one** learns from traditional, passive lecture
  14. 14. Since We’re Talking about Work… <ul><li>On a Friday?!?!?! </li></ul>
  15. 15. Recent Brain Science: More Like a Muscle Than We Thought <ul><li>Requires strenuous extended use to develop </li></ul>Stronger?
  16. 16. Recent Brain Science: More Like a Muscle Than We Thought <ul><li>Requires strenuous extended use to develop </li></ul>Smarter? F=ma
  17. 17. Recent Brain Science: More Like a Muscle Than We Thought <ul><li>Requires strenuous extended use to develop </li></ul>Smarter? F=ma
  18. 18. Quick Aside: Passivity is Biological <ul><li>Don’t expend energy unless you have to for survival. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Otherwise the lion might eat you. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>So learners aren’t lazy when they don’t do optional homework, etc. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They are biologically programmed. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>CORROLARY: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If something is important for learning, require it. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Give points, time, bonus, etc. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Discuss/Argue with your Neighbor: <ul><li>Student GPA correlates positively with time spent studying: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A) YES </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>B) NO </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Effortful Practice (!couch) <ul><li>Practice should: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Be in context (solve problem of interest) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Be in “Zone of Proximal Development” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Just an increment harder than what one can handle </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Be supported by timely, specific feedback from instructor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>INCORPORATE REFLECTION ON PROCESSES, HOW LEARNED, WHAT LEARNED, WHAT TO APPLY FOR THE NEXT STEP** </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>This has to be communicated to another person for effective improvement </li></ul></ul></ul>**Meta-cognitive Skills: How do I know if I know, How do I learn new things
  21. 21. Motivation: The single most important factor for success <ul><li>Often overlooked or poo-pooed </li></ul><ul><li>Think seriously though </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This is a NO BRAINER </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Quick Aside: Motivation is Biological <ul><li>Do you what you need to do to avoid getting eaten </li></ul>
  23. 23. Effortful “Time on Task” is one of the largest predictors of success <ul><li>What are the best positive motivators for CS students at university? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the best positive motivators for employees at a company? </li></ul>
  24. 24. New Experiment at UCSD <ul><li>For loops to calculate Fibonacci numbers: OUT </li></ul><ul><li>For loops to manipulate digital pictures: IN </li></ul><ul><li>Goal: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Improved retention in major </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Currently >50% of students drop major by end of 2 nd year </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. The Success Story To Model: Expert Tutors <ul><li>Achieves MOST effective learning of any educational approach </li></ul><ul><li>Large impact on all students </li></ul><ul><li>Average for class with expert individual tutors >98% of students in class with standard instruction </li></ul>* Bloom et al Educational Researcher , Vol. 13, pg. 4
  26. 26. Best Practices of Expert Tutors <ul><li>Motivation major focus </li></ul><ul><ul><li>context, pique curiosity,... </li></ul></ul><ul><li>limited praise, never for person, all for process </li></ul><ul><li>Understands what students do and do not know </li></ul><ul><ul><li>timely, specific, interactive feedback </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Almost never tell students anything-- pose questions </li></ul><ul><li>Mostly students answering questions and explaining </li></ul><ul><li>Asking right questions so students challenged but can figure out. Systematic progression. (ZPD) </li></ul><ul><li>Let students make mistakes, then discover and fix </li></ul><ul><li>Require reflection: how solved, explain, generalize,… </li></ul>
  27. 27. The End 
  28. 28. References <ul><li>• How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (expanded edition), edited by J. Bransford, A. Brown, and R. Cocking (National Academy Press, 2000). </li></ul><ul><li>• Knowing What Students Know: The Science and Design of Educational Assessment, edited by J. Pellegrino, R. Glaser, and N. Chudowsky (National Academy Press, 2001). </li></ul><ul><li>• Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, edited by K. Ericsson, N. Charness, R. Hoffman, and P. Feltovich (Cambridge University Press, 2006). </li></ul><ul><li>• M. Lepper and M. Woolverton, Ch. 7: The Wisdom of Practice: Lessons Learned from the Study of Highly Effective Tutors, in Improving academic achievement, J.M. Aronson, Ed. (Academic Press, 2002). </li></ul><ul><li>• B.S. Bloom, “The 2 Sigma Problem: The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as Effective as One-to-One Tutoring,” Educational Researcher, Vol. 13, No. 6, pp. 4-16 (1984). </li></ul><ul><li>• P.E. Ross, “The Expert Mind,” Scientific American, V. 295, Issue 2, pp. 64-71 (August 2006). </li></ul><ul><li>• N.J. Cepeda et al., “Distributed Practice in Verbal Recall Tasks: A Review and Quantitative Synthesis,” Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 132, No. 3, pp. 354–380 (2006). </li></ul><ul><li>• H.L. Roediger and J.D. Karpicke, “Test-Enhanced Learning: Taking Memory Tests Improves Long-Term Retention,” Psychological Science, 17, pp. 249-255 (2006). </li></ul><ul><li>• A.A. MacKenzie and R.T. White, “Fieldwork in Geography and Long-Term Memory Structures,” American Educational Research Journal, Vol. 19, No. 4, pp. 623-632 (1982). </li></ul><ul><li>other references at www.cwsei.ubc.ca </li></ul><ul><li>Recorded webcast on IK Barber Learning Centre website: www.ikebarberlearningcentre.ubc.ca </li></ul>