Course Philosophy

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CSSE2000 is based upon work on student centred ACTIVE LEARNING undertaken in Physics at the University of North Carolina by Bob Beichner.



ACTIVE LEARNING: An active class would involve the students having to take an active role, in processing the course topics, as they are covered in class. Some of the formats this activity might take include almost any form of immediate feedback the student provides the instructor about the topic under consideration, discussions about the topic with other students during the class,student provided summation of information about the topic, or student explanation of elements of the topic.

COOPERATIVE LEARNING: This is a planned approach in the class where students work together in either delivering information on topics to one another, or in deepening their understanding of a topic. Cooperative learning means utilizing a positive interdependence relationship among students to enhance common goals for the class.

COLLABORATIVE LEARNING: Collaborative learning is a situation in which two or more people learn or attempt to learn something together.[1] More specifically, collaborative learning is based on the model that knowledge can be created within a population where members actively interact by sharing experiences and take on asymmetry roles.

STUDENT-CENTRED LEARNING: Student-centered learning (also called child-centered learning) is an approach to education focusing on the needs of the students, rather than those of others involved in the educational process, such as teachers and administrators.

Why Teach in This Way?

It is best described in a quote from Wilbert J. McKeachie ISBN 0395903459 [Teaching tips: Strategies, research and theory for college and university teachers, Houghton-Mifflin (1998)] The best answer to the question, What is the most effective method of teaching? is that it depends on the goal, the student, the content, and the teacher. But the next best answer is, students teaching other students.

Does Group Work Actually Work?!

Richard Hake undertook a very large survey of the effects of interactive engagement versus traditional methods involving over 6,000 students and showed that interactive methods of learning were statistically significant. Check out some of the plots of learning gains achieved by group work methods of traditional lectures.

Richard Felder from NCSU has spent a large part of his career examining and promoting active learning approaches throughout the world. His website has a link to this paper by Michael Prince M. Prince, "Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research." J. Engr. Education, 93(3), 223-231 (2004).

Who else has done this?

    • Robert (Bob) Beicher at North Carolina State University (NCSU) introduced Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs (SCALE-UP). A more detailed report appeared as a book chapter which requires you register before you download this document. If you take the time to read either paper, you will see that active learning produces significant gains in student understanding of an area of learning.
    • John Belcher at MIT introduced Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) in 1991. A review of the program was publisher in 2005 which is worth looking at as well.
    • There are LOTS of places doing this method, in areas beyond physics and now into mathematics, chemistry, astronomy. We are the first (that we know of) to work in the area of digital system design in a purpose designed space.

Time on Task

I am a firm advocate of "time on task". You will not become an elite designer without spending considerable time DOING digital design. You need to read the article by K. Anders Ericsson and a shorter version in Anders K. Ericsson, Prietula, Michael J.; Cokely, Edward T (2007) "The Making of an Expert" Harvard Business Review (July‚ÄďAugust 2007). His research shows that it requires approximately 10,000 hours over 10 years of deliberate practice (i.e., discovering and working on and improving upon your weaknesses in a defined area of activity). CSSE2000 is just the start of the journey for many of you.

K. Anders Ericsson has worked extensively in the area of acquisition of expert performance in many disciplines. His work was quoted by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. This paper is a brilliant exposition of what is required to become an expert. This course is attempting to start you on the pathway to becoming an expert, so be warned that we are acting on Ericsson's evidence. :-)

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