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Teaching Style Does Matter

I recently read a really interesting article on interactive teaching in computer science by .

The article, appearing in ACM Inroads (Vol. 1. No. 2) was interesting to me because it concerned teaching style/pedagogy, which is a topic that is too rarely discussed in post-secondary computer science education.

In his article, Diagnosing your teaching syle: How interactive are you?, Clear puts forward the argument that the current environment for university level computer science education (academic workload, managerial policies and practices, pressure to expand research output) engenders "a stifling conformity and natural conservatism in teaching practice." Clear further notes that "the increasing focus on consistency in a mass production model of teaching militates heavily against innovation" in teaching.

The body of the article explores Clear's efforts to get a better sense of student perceptions toward his course and the extent to which those perceptions may be impacted by the extent to which other instructors or the program as a whole use more collaborative and interactive teaching styles.

I won't tell you what he discovered because you really should read the article for yourself, but I will tell you that his statement that:

"We need to imbue the process of learning with some inherent discomfort and challenge to achieve meaningful outcomes, which is characteristic of truly transformative learning experiences."

really resonated for me.

So, when you look at your own teaching, do you believe that you challenge your students with interactive and collaborative learning experiences and if so, how comfortable do they feel with these practices?

Chris Stephenson
Executive Director


I think it's important to note that the author never explicitly makes or supports the claim that interactive teaching and learning is any more effective in his program, only that it's unusual.

Let's assume that students in his course learned the material in more depth and had a better overall experience. Even then it could have nothing to do with how interactive or learner-centered the teaching is. For example, it may be the case that simply surveying students about their thoughts increases their performance in and enjoyment of a course. It could also be the case that teachers who reflect on their teaching practice are more effective, regardless of the style they choose.

I'm nervous about the author's agenda to "encourage innovative teaching practice" -- innovation does not invariably lead to success and could mean throwing out effective, well-understood tactics in favor of untested, possibly ineffective ones.

I believe interactive teaching will be the only practice in the future.

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