Resources and best practices for improving pedagogy

All teachers routinely look to improve their teaching for the benefit of all students, but did you know that general best practices, like active learning, can be even more beneficial for students from minoritized groups in STEM? In studies involving more than 44,000 students, researchers found: “On average, active learning reduced achievement gaps in exam scores and passing rates. Active learning benefits all students but offers disproportionate benefits for individuals from underrepresented groups.” (Theobald, et al., 2020).  [Adapted from]  

For this reason, it is critical in computing at STEM fields, where we suffer from longstanding underrepresentation of various groups, that all our faculty and other instructors stay up to date on best pedagogical approaches and regularly revise their teaching methods to reflect current best practices.  

This page was created by CS&E faculty to compile resources and a quick self-assessment that can help us to implement best practices as we regularly review and improve our own teaching methods.

1.) Reflect on your current teaching practices by using a self-assessment tool

The community recommends this 10-minute self-assessment tool (Weiman and Gilbert, 2017) as a way to understand what research-based teaching practices we are already using and which ones we are not.  This is a great place to begin.  

2.) Learn about the three overarching principles of student engagement

The National Center for Women in Information Technology has create an Engagement Practices Framework that documents research-based practices designed specifically to help engage all students, especially those at risk of leaving the field due to stereotypes about who does computing.

Adopting these practices will help keep students in your class and in our field! The practices support three overarching engagement principles:

  1. Make It Matter
  2. Build Student Confidence and Professional Identity
  3. Grow an Inclusive Community

Click through NCWIT’s Engagement Practices Framework to learn about each.

3.) Implement Cynthia Lee’s practical tips

Cynthia Lee gave the Carlis Memorial Lecture in 2019 and left us with several resources, including her "What can I do today to create a more inclusive community in CS?" worksheet. She suggests taping it on your wall. There are sections for what to do at the start of term, mid term, end of term, and even daily.

4.) Learn from each other

Depending on what you are teaching, there may already be exceptional resources you can incorporate and build upon as you (re-)design your CS&E course. The Peer Instruction for Computer Science group (also led by Cynthia Lee) has posted materials for flipped classroom style teaching in CS1 (Python or Java), CS2 (Java or C++), Computer Architecture, Theory, Programming Languages, and more.

5 .) “TILT” assignment descriptions to help all students and underserved students a lot

Research shows small changes in the way we present our assignments can make a significant benefit for students. Essentially, the guidance is to be “transparent”, exceptionally clear on the purpose, task, criteria. Mary-Ann Winkelmes has an online talk that addresses the practices and research to back them up. The TILT Higher Ed Examples and Resources page includes relevant research papers, workshop materials, and assignment templates.

6.) Dive deeper into the Research Basis for Inclusive Teaching

The University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching defines “inclusive teaching” and includes ~20 links to primary research sources. The entire page is useful, a couple of highlight links found through this page include:

7.) Create clear and inclusive syllabi

CS-IDEA maintains a separate page on writing an inclusive syllabus since this is such an important topic with many resources.