SICSA DVF Professor Beth Simon; How we teach impacts students learning, performance and persistence.

Date(s) - 05/09/2014
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Room 422, Alwyn Williams Building, School of Computing Science

How we teach impacts students learning, performance, and persistence: Results from three studies of Peer Instruction in Computer Science

What a course “is” and “does” can be viewed through the lens of instructional design. Any course should be based around the learning goals we have for students taking the course – what it is we want them to know and be able to do when they finish the course. Describing how we go about supporting students in achieving those goals can be broken into two parts: a) the content/materials we choose to cover and b) the methods/pedagogical approaches we employ. In this talk I review the results of three studies looking at the impact of method or pedagogical approach in computing courses. Specifically, I’ll review our experience using the Peer Instruction method (aka “clickers”) in computer science courses at UC San Diego and discuss the following:

a) an observed 50% reduction in fail rate in four computing courses adopting Peer Instruction,
b) an in-situ comparison study showing Peer Instruction students to perform 6% better than students in a standard “lecture” setting, and
c) a 30% increase in retention of majors after adopting a trio of best practices in our introductory programming course (Peer Instruction, Media Computation, and Pair Programming).

If you are interested in this talk and also the workshop commencing at 2.00pm, please RSVP here, so we can plan both lunch and materials targeting your courses:


Beth Simon is on the faculty of the Computer Science and Engineering Department at the University of California, San Diego. Since 2011, she has also served as the Director of UCSD’s Center for Teaching Development. During 2007-2008 Beth worked as a Science Teaching and Learning Fellow in the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia. Beth’s primary research interests lie in improving the university learning experience through adoption of evidence-based pedagogical practices – notably Peer Instruction. Her current top projects involve developing Peer Instruction materials investigating models of instructor adoption both within university computing instructors and in supporting high school teachers in the US CS10K project. Previously, Beth has explored student preconceptions in computing, the emotional experiences of students in doing programming assignments, student debugging ability, the challenges of recent computing graduates in their first software development jobs, and the use of technology to support interactive classrooms.

During academic year 2014-2015, Beth will be on leave at Coursera, a leading MOOC provider, building a teaching and learning group.

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