Teaching Innovations in Higher Education

My interest in teaching and its innovations arises as a consequence of the crisis in the teaching of college-level science and engineering. The number of graduates in science and engineering is decreasing in most developed countries.

The problem lies at the university level. There is a high number of high school students interested in science and technology, but their numbers shrink when they enter university. One brief account of the problem can be found at:

Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard). New York Times, 2011.

There is no general agreement on the causes of the dwindling number of students in science and engineering. My belief is that one of the causes is that too much time is devoted to the learning of scientific facts without paying attention to the process that produced that knowledge.

There is little that deserves the name of knowledge in being able to recite that the earth revolves around the sun. That knowledge carries intellectual value if we know about the evidence and the arguments that support this belief, if we know about the science behind.

Hasok Chang (Adapted)

What can we do to fix this problem?

As we don’t know the causes there is no silver bullet. My personal approach consists in periodically devoting some time  to get training on the subject. It’s my belief that the best course that is widely available is

An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching from the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL).

Another interesting course although more theoretical and demanding is

Teaching College-Level Science and Engineering by Dr. Sanjoy Mahajan.

I also spend some time in the development of innovations in teaching. I focus in real world applications of teaching methodologies that have been shown to be effective. I believe that university teachers should focus on real world innovations, leaving basic level pedagogical research to specialists.

Some examples of teaching Innovations implemented during the last few years.

Automatic assessment tools in introductory programming courses.

Our goal is to study the use of an automatic assessment tool –CodeRunner– in introductory programming courses. These tools assess exercises automatically and provide feedback to students.

Several studies have shown that these tools enhance students’ engagement and learning. We have found that introducing CodeRunner in an introductory programming courses significantly improves students outcomes. We have published our study at the XXIV Jornadas sobre la Enseñanza Universitaria de la Informática (JENUI 2018). You can read it here (in Spanish).

If you are interested in installing this tool in the cloud you can use this guide (in Spanish).

Using Arduino to enhacen students learning: teaching introductory programming to science and engineering students.

This study has two aims: to design and implement several introductory programming learning modules applying the physical computing paradigm and to evaluate these modules when taught to science students and engineering. We selected the Arduino board as the hardware platform for the electronic component. This webpage describes briefly the project.

Physical Computing: Using Arduino to teach introductory programming.