Spring 1999 CS302 Assignment #14
by Dan Garcia
The last assignment will be to write up an evaluation of CS 302. Here
is a first draft of things to think about. Are there others?
One issue to address is how having only two students in the class affected
the experience / how much we learned.
To what extent have your expectations about and attitude toward teaching
changed as a result of CS 302?
More than anything I felt that the discussion we had with Brian had the
most impact on my attitude toward teaching. At no other time have I more
clearly seen the heavy cost teaching can have. I'd heard that high school
teachers get burnt out quickly, but I never felt even a hint of it as a
TA. That Brian was contemplating "running away and becoming a 4th grade
teacher to finally do some real teaching" was a harsh bit of reality
that was important to hear. How someone avoids burnout is one of the questions
I'd like to discuss.
Compare the workload to other graduate courses. (It's likely that this
will end up as a 2-unit course.)
This was just about right for a two unit class. Maybe a little on the
light side as there wasn't much reading and no final project. No complaints,
Which assignments were especially good? Which were the worst? Please
- Howework 1 : Choose a course
- Required, easily the most hours I spent on an assignment. It certainly
got the ball rolling...
- Howework 2 : Concept mapping and difficulties
- At times, this felt corny, like I was being introduced to one of those
new-age management ideas. I would have loved to see Brian Barsky's concept
- Howework 3 : Genetic decomposition
- On one hand, I feel that analyzing what concepts are difficult for
students is quite useful. On the other hand, I'm not sure framing that
in Dubinsky's decomposition is the best way to reveal those core conceptual
blocks. I'd probably say this was the worst assignment.
- Howework 4 : Case study
- Great. I finally understand what all the fuss is about case studies.
Count me in!
- Howework 5 : Design homework exercises
- I like Bloom's taxonomy. Fun.
- Howework 6 : Design the first exam
- Good follow-up from the previous assignment.
- Howework 7 : Design group activities
- Howework 8 : Design grading policy
- I very much enjoyed the discussions that came out of this assignment.
It's fascinating how different Andy and I feel about revealing students'
grades to them.
- Howework 10 : Choose a textbook
- This should have been assigned much earlier in the semester - one of
the better assignments. I enjoyed the process of choosing a textbook and
the questions were very directed.
- Howework 11 : Working with TAs
- Relevance? Some of us could end up working in a small college with
no teaching assistants available...
- Howework 12 : Innovative Technologies
- IMHO, the best assignment. I very much enjoyed the class discussions
- Howework 13 : Questions for Brian Harvey
- I mention in the summary below that I believe an entire early assignment
should be to come up with a set of pedagogical philosophy questions to
ask guest faculty. It's a shame we didn't get to ask Brian our questions
we came up with.
- Howework 14 : Evaluation
- Making this an assignment rather than a small form made me think much
harder about improving the course. I liked this assignment. It started
slow but grew on me.
How much work would remain for you to teach the course you designed?
Should an assignment have addressed this?
Clearly the remaining tasks are to design the remaining assignments,
exams, and projects and then actually teach the lectures. This is ignoring
all of the extra work involved in maintaining the web page, holding office
hours, answering email and keeping up with the newsgroup. If anything, it
might have been useful to have each of us prepare and give a self-contained
half-lecture. I would have been interested in exploring the differences
between teaching a section as a TA and teaching a lecture as a professor.
What must you change in your technique when your audience grows from 30
to 400? No need to address this with an assignment.
Please comment on the advantages and disadvantages of each person working
on his or her own course compared to everyone designing the same course.
The obvious advantage was that each of us was free to create our own
course with no constraints. It felt very affirming to have complete control
over everything. That's not usually the reality (except perhaps when one
is teaching graduate courses or seminars), but it increased my enjoyment
since it was all my choosing (similar to why student-chosen final projects
are more fun than assignments). I also appreciated the fact that I wasn'
t competing against Andy - in many ways our courses were apples and oranges.
The disadvantage is that I never got to work with Andy on any
projects as I would have had we been sharing the same course. I didn't get
to explore the give and take balance that is necessary when team teaching.
Overall, the advantages strongly outweigh the disadvantages, so I'd keep
that course component unchanged.
Use of class time
Generally in class we discussed the assignments. To what extent was
this a good thing, and to what extent should we have used class periods
for other purposes? Please provide examples.
I enjoyed using class time to discuss the assignments. I sometimes regretted
that we didn't get to have more time to do much of anything but
discuss the assignments (I forget which ones). Having two lectures per week
(one with a guest lecturer and one with just us) would solve that.
What else should I change for the next offering of CS 302?
- More people
- I really enjoyed the class. I can't imagine a course whose focus could
be any more germane to my career interests (unless, perhaps, it included
some after-hours golf rounds, but I digress). However, that much said,
I wish more students could have participated. I'm thankful Arnie joined
in and very pleased we were able to have Brian come by (...in a perfect
world he'd attend every class). It seemed that the quality of the discussion
grew faster than linear with each added participant to our class. Granted,
I'd have less time focused on my assignment, but what I'd learn
from each additional voice would easily outweigh my loss of personal attention.
- Guest professors
- I would have enjoyed having a different "guest professor"
come by for each class and present thoughts either on the topic of the
week or present their "Top ten keys to being an outstanding teacher"
and "Top ten things they don't tell you about the teaching profession".
One item on the second list would be burnout and how to deal with it. Another
might be a discussion of what it's like to teach at an all-girls college.
- When choosing the guest professors, make sure anyone who's won any
teaching award within the department makes the A-list. Any others who show
interest and enthusiasm (or have strong opinions) about teaching should
be invited. I know Brian (Barsky) would have been delighted to join us
for a class. I also would have enjoyed visits from lecturers from Mills
and Stanford, if available. Howabout having a visit from Barbara Gross
Davis? Inviting professors would lessen the separationist feeling I got
from our discussions; that we're the only ones who care about teaching.
- One early assignment might have been to generate a list of pedagogical
philosophy questions (similar to what
I generated for the previous assignment). These could be compiled and
used to get a sense of the philosophical leanings of each guest professor.
- Two lectures a week
- One idea might be to have two 1- or 1.5-hour classes per week. E.g.,
Monday's class would be with the guest faculty and Wednesday's class would
be similar to this year's class.
- Tools for Teaching
- I would have made more chapters of Barbara's book required reading.
- GSI Essays
- I would have loved to have read the creative teaching essays from the
- I wanna look like George Hamilton
- Oh, and I'd hold more classes outside when the weather permits.
WWW Maven: Dan
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