Teaching Portfolio. Teaching Philosophy

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1 Teaching Portfolio Teaching Philosophy Over the course of my education, I have had the privilege of interacting with some truly excellent teachers, who have shaped my knowledge, reasoning, and technical skills. More importantly, they have shared with me their own enthusiasm, and helped me learn to teach myself. I aspire to have the same kind of impact on the next generation of computer scientists. My goal is to help students develop a solid theoretical foundation, learn the technical skills to apply it, and ultimately to extend their skills to new domains beyond the classroom. For me, the most important aspect of teaching is to help students engage with the material. This process starts, first, with energy and enthusiasm for the subject, as well as promoting student interaction with class demonstrations, discussions, and group activities. I also work to make topics personal, adding in cautionary tales from my own experience, such as the time I implemented an exponential-time algorithm and increased the login wait on a client s website from 2 to 45 seconds. Second, it is important to connect with students as individuals, with different backgrounds and learning styles. Understanding individual differences helps a teacher tailor the course to the audience in terms of applications, examples, and assignments. Third, students need to understand how they will apply the knowledge in future careers. Where appropriate for classroom assignments, I plan to incorporate bestpractices from industry such as test-driven development, automatic documentation generation, and version control. I am also a strong believer in team projects and class presentations, which are good preparation for both industry and graduate school. Finally, I am committed to continually improve as a teacher. For me, this means listening closely to student feedback, trying novel approaches, and seeking out new ideas from other teachers. I have been a teaching assistant for several classes: Machine Learning, Intelligent Systems (Artificial Intelligence), and Object Oriented Design and Implementation. My responsibilities included grading assignments, holding office hours, and occasional lecturing for classes ranging in size from students. I have also filled in as a guest lecturer for a variety of other classes, including Computer Vision, Software Engineering, and Algorithms and Data Structures. In addition, over three summers, I served as the graduate assistant for UNC Charlotte s NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, mentoring a diverse group of student researchers. I had the opportunity not only to work with individual students on particular projects, but also to prepare and deliver several all-day, hands-on bootcamp introductions to programming in Matlab, Image Processing, and Machine Learning. I found these small-group and one-on-one interactions with student researchers to be particularly rewarding, and am looking forward to continuing to foster undergraduate research in the future. Page 1 of 6

2 My experience as a teaching assistant, combined with my academic training and professional appointments as a programmer, project manager, and consultant, have prepared me to teach a wide variety of classes as the needs of the department may require. In addition to the courses listed above, I would enjoy teaching Introduction to Computer Science, Web Development, Databases, Software Engineering, and Project Management. Teaching Experience Teaching Assistant As a teaching assistant, I graded assignments, held office hours, and guest lectured for several different classes. Intelligent Systems Fall 2014 Object Oriented Design and Implementation Spring 2014 Machine Learning Fall 2013 Teaching and Learning Seminars In preparation for a future career focused on teaching, I have attended a variety of workshops and seminars focused on improving my knowledge and skills. Moodle I attended a workshop entitled Moodle 2: The Basics. The workshop provided an introduction to Moodle, including uploading a profile photograph customizing a class Moodle site, and creating an assignment. In general, I would say that the course was targeted at people who have never seen Moodle before and also are not particularly skilled with computers. For me, the class moved too slowly. Still, I did find several things useful: You can view the site as a different role, to see what is visible, e.g., to students. You can back up your course under settings/administration/backup. New assignments can be created as hidden, so that only the instructor can see them. One limitation of Moodle is that an is sent to a student immediately when an assignment is graded. There is no way to wait until all the assignments are graded. There are a surprising number of different Moodle activities for different scenarios, including assignments, polls, forums, blogs, quizzes, wiki pages, and more. o This handout helps figure out which activity might be appropriate for different learning goals: Page 2 of 6

3 Testing with Clickers I attended a workshop entitled Testing with Clickers. The workshop provided a detailed look at allowing students to use clickers to take in-class tests. In general, the targeted use case is for situations where an electronic test is desired, but class size precludes the use of a computer lab. Clickers are inexpensive ($50) relative to a laptop or smart phone, and many students may already have one from a prior class, making them an accessible mode of testing. However, due to the difficulty of use, only multiple choice and true/false questions are a reasonable option, limiting the types of testing that can be done. The main benefit is for the teacher: since the students take care of inputting answers electronically, it eases the burden on the teacher. The clicker management software includes utilities for creating tests, grading, and generating reports. Functionality is included for randomizing question and answer order as well as creating alternate versions. Technical problems appear to be common. Student clickers may malfunction. A student may fail to properly register a clicker. The recommended best practice is to hand out hard copies of the test and have students take the test with pencil/pen first, then manually key the answers into the clicker. This way, there is a backup record in case of problems. My impression of using clickers for testing is that there may be more drawbacks than advantages. The limitation on types of questions and challenges of using the clickers seem to outweigh the advantage of easier grading. (Although if this is a concern for very large classes, then perhaps a scantron approach might be preferable.) Clicker lend themselves more naturally to synchronous polling types of applications, such as during class discussions. I believe I will stick with this usage. Professional Development Seminars I have also attended several seminars designed to promote professional development. Two are described below. Groupwork I attended a seminar entitled Promoting Better Learning Through Simple, Practical, Groupwork, Assessment, and Feedback Strategies. The speaker was Tom Angelo from Queens University. The workshop covered topics related to encouraging group work in classes. Some of the material was more general (e.g., it is important to establish a safe environment where students feel comfortable taking risks), but the primary focus was specific techniques that can be directly applied in a class. Following are several ideas I found useful. Make sure group projects actually require a group. If a project can be done by one person, it probably will be. Grades should include both a group and individual component to motivate everyone s contribution. Page 3 of 6

4 Encourage interaction and collaboration among the people in the class by immediately (within the first hour) dividing people into randomized groups to work on something class-related (not just ice-break activities). The top things students say they are looking for in a teacher are: o Enthusiasm/passion o Clarity o Organization/structure o Fairness Do not rely on volunteers in class. Call on people randomly to get everyone involved. Make it clear that an acceptable answer is I m not prepared today. Encourage student interest by asking them about their interests and customizing examples to match throughout the course. Encourage students to prepare ahead of class by having frequent (possibly every day) quizzes at the start of class. Allow them to drop the worst 20% of quizzes. Preparation reduces cognitive load in class, improving learning outcomes. People can typically only learn five things in an hour. Do not teach too many concepts or skills in one class. Focus on either a skill or a concept, but not both at once. Collect feedback from students to know what they feel comfortable with and what needs more review. Tools for this include the minute paper, which asks two questions: what was the most useful thing you learned, and what question remains uppermost in your mind? Another tool is the muddiest point, which asks: what was the least clear thing today? Public Speaking I attended a virtual training by the Center for Graduate Life on the topic of Becoming a More Confident Public Speaker. The training focused on why public speaking can be challenging and offered specific ideas for improving. I got several useful ideas: Speaking anxiety is very common. One reason for this is a negative feedback loop, where a speaking experience doesn t go well, leading to negative self-conception, leading to less confidence, leading to worse speaking. However, it is also possible to set in motion a positive feedback loop as skills improve. For giving talks, the follow steps should be followed: prepare, incubate, illuminate, and refine. In fact, preparation reduces anxiety by 75% per a recent study. Audience attention wanes after just minutes. Therefore, in a talk, plan a hook at regular intervals to keep the audience engaged. Preferably a hook has some emotional significance, such as a story. In addition to content, style is very important. Nonverbal Expectancy Theory describes how the audience s expectations of speaker style affects their reaction. Be aware of nonverbal components, including posture, gestures, eye contact, movement and vocal delivery. Varying these things can help with engagement. Page 4 of 6

5 A specific technique for audience engagement is voting. Asking people to take a position on a question helps to make them feel emotionally involved. Educational Paper Presentation I am interested in incorporating the latest scholarship of teaching and learning into my own teaching. One paper in particular that I read was by Hunhausen et al. from ACT Transactions on Computing Education 2013 entitled Talking about Code: Integrating Pedagogical Code Reviews into Early Computing Courses. The paper proposed the introduction of a code review process into introductory programming classes to help computer science students develop soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, and collaboration. The authors found that code reviews were effective in this regard, but that the presence of trained moderators in small groups was vital to the success of the effort. A parallel study with purely online, asynchronous code reviews did not provide the same level of soft skill improvement. Master Teacher Observation In order to improve my own teaching strategies, I observed ITIS 3130 Human Computer Interfaces, taught by Dr. Mary Lou Maher. Dr. Maher has implemented the flipped classroom methodology, and she recommended that I prepare prior to observing the class by reading up on the relevant material on the course Moodle site. There is material describing how the flipped classroom works in general, as well as the specifics of this course. The students watch videos ahead of time and are required to annotate the videos with comments, as well as complete prescribed readings. In class, Dr. Maher gave a quick review of the material and discussed some areas for improvement from the students prior assignment. Normally, there is also a quick Moodle quiz. The majority of the class was dedicated to group work, where each team, co-located at small tables, worked on an in-class activity. At the end of class, each group uploaded a document to Moodle with the results. The format of the class led to a high level of engagement and discussion among students. Dr. Maher and two teaching assistants floated through the class to observe, answer questions, and point students in the right direction. Generally, however, the activity was studentdriven. Another advantage to the flipped classroom is that academic integrity becomes much less of a concern, since students are completing work and quizzes in class. One potential drawback is that, with group sizes of 6 8 students, there was a tendency for some students to contribute very little. Possibly smaller groups would address this issue. Another problem was that not all groups were equally prepared. If none of the group members has done the prerequisites, it definitely hampers the group progress. One note is that, while Dr. Maher mentioned that the amount of preparation for a flipped classroom can exceed the preparation required within a traditional teaching paradigm, the students perceived things differently. A common view was that teachers do less for the Page 5 of 6

6 flipped classroom. They don t even really teach, just pick out some videos. Students also felt that student effort was increased compared to a conventional classroom. Service I am coordinating a seminar this semester focused on research in the area of computer vision. My role includes scheduling speakers and handling logistics and communications. The seminar meets every other week. I am also a reviewer for a computer science journal, IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics. Page 6 of 6

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