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Making Lemonade: Exploring the Bright Side of Large Classes Steve Wolfman UW CS&E Educational Technology Group. Course Description. CSE142: Intro to Programming I 400 students total (final) two parallel sections service + feeder course
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Making Lemonade:Exploring the Bright Side of Large ClassesSteve WolfmanUW CS&E Educational Technology Group
Course Description • CSE142: Intro to Programming I • 400 students total (final) • two parallel sections • service + feeder course • Spring ’01 reviews top 10% in eng (including small/advanced classes) Steve Wolfman UW CS&E
Men… go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one. – Charles McKay Anything you can do in a large class you can do better in a small one. – Phil Wankat (attributed by Richard Felder) Making Lemonade:Exploring the Bright Side of Large ClassesSteve WolfmanUW CS&E Educational Technology Group
Key Points:What you will walk away believing • Large classes have valuable properties. • Instructors and students can turn these properties to pedagogical advantage. • Corollary: SIGCSE should explore ways to exploit these properties. Steve Wolfman UW CS&E
Raw material Large classes are big, and so… • they are diverse. • wide range of ideas and backgrounds • upper tails • they have substantial staff resources. • amortized effort • staff diversity • they engender a crowd atmosphere. • the “madness of the crowds” Steve Wolfman UW CS&E
“Large classes are big”can be an advantage Human algorithms: binary tree simulation • scale of the class is intuitively “big” to students • result shows a property of binary trees • active, sensing, inductive (Felder) • sensio-motor learning experience (Piaget) Steve Wolfman UW CS&E
Diversity can be an advantage Class discussions: “Let’s Make a Deal” • diversity of • …opinion (positive) conflict • …background different reasoning strategies • result: • meta-cognition (on reasoning process) • reflection on what makes a “faithful” simulation Steve Wolfman UW CS&E
The “Upper Tails” can be an advantage The “upper tails” are the set of students that greatly exceed the mean for some measure… These students can improve the whole class • “early adopters”: refine assignments • vocal students: spark discussion • top students: inspire others Steve Wolfman UW CS&E
Amortized staff resources can be an advantage • Homework infrastructure • Shared section materials • Open labs • The “CSE142 Library” • Study sessions • Debugger tutorial Steve Wolfman UW CS&E
The “madness of the crowds”can be an advantage • The first day hand-raising [Klionsky] (or song or shout…) • Game shows • Let’s make a deal problem • Towers of Hanoi • Money in envelopes Steve Wolfman UW CS&E
Methods to use these advantages • Perspective • Awareness • Informing students • Individualized work (or extra credit [Roberts]) • Public opportunities to share work [Roberts] • Group action to overcome habits [Klionsky] Steve Wolfman UW CS&E
We have a responsibility to explore the bright side of large classes Large class sizes are a fact for at least the near future in introductory CS courses. “Lemonade” techniques have potential to enhance learning in large classes. , the CS education community has a responsibility to explore these techniques. Steve Wolfman UW CS&E
Key points not in this talk • Individual innovative techniques Many techniques in this talk are not innovative. • Statistically significant measures Mea culpa: let’s test them now! • How much better are small classes? Not relevant once you’re already slated to teach a large class. Steve Wolfman UW CS&E
Challenge Codify and evaluate a positive pedagogy of large courses — through design of classroom techniques — that will complement the existing pedagogy and enhance student learning. Steve Wolfman UW CS&E
Acknowledgments Martin Dickey, CSE142 staff and students, CSE326 staff and students, Richard Anderson, Mike Ernst, Andy Garland, David Kay, Rachel Pottinger, Jacob and Shelley Wolfman, and CSE590ET. This work was supported in part by an Intel Foundation Graduate Fellowship. Steve Wolfman UW CS&E