Vision on teaching and supervision

Vision on teaching

My vision for teaching and learning starts with the belief that education serves dual purposes: it equips students with the skills and knowledge needed to drive human progress through research, and it prepares them to positively impact society in their professional careers.

Building upon this core belief, I recognize the unique nature of the discipline I teach. Technical computer science, and programming in particular, are deeply rooted in practical application. Therefore, my vision for teaching extends to foster a ‘learn by doing’ approach, whereby students are encouraged to apply the theories and concepts they learn through direct implementation in software.

By putting theories into practice, students engage in a process of discovery and troubleshooting that requires a deep and precise understanding of the principles at hand. The complexities of programming often lead to errors and the need for iterative refinement. Through these trials, errors, and revisions, students are compelled to confront their misconceptions, revise their understanding, and solidify their grasp of the concepts.

This experiential learning aligns with Morris’s revised interpretation of Kolb’s learning cycle (Morris, 2019). Morris proposed that a concrete experience in experiential learning is contextually rich, involving active participation and situational knowledge. He also proposed that this experience includes exposure to novelty and risk, inquiry into specific real-world problems, and critical reflection as a mediator of meaningful learning.

In programming, these characteristics can be seen as the student coding an initial solution (contextually rich concrete experience), debugging when an error arises (critical reflective observation), understanding the theory or concept that led to the error (context-specific abstract conceptualization), and modifying their code to solve the issue (pragmatic active experimentation). This iterative cycle, characterized by the complexity and novelty of programming challenges and the necessity for active engagement and critical reflection, is integral to the learning process in computer science and forms the cornerstone of my teaching philosophy.

Central to my approach as an educator is a commitment to student-centered teaching, which fosters active participation and critical thinking. Biggs and Tang’s principle of constructive alignment (Biggs & Tang, 2011) forms the bedrock of my teaching strategy. In their seminal work, ‘Teaching for Quality Learning at University,’ they advocate for a deliberate alignment between the intended learning outcomes, teaching methods, and assessment tasks in a course.

In my classroom, this principle manifests as an environment that encourages exploration, questioning, and problem-solving, specifically through programming challenges. Rather than viewing students as passive recipients of knowledge, I see them as active constructors of understanding, drawing on their own experiences and existing knowledge base to tackle new information and tasks.

The challenges I set are designed to mimic real-world scenarios as much as possible, not only to provide context and relevancy but also to enable students to transfer their learning to real-life applications. This mirrors Dewey’s philosophy of education (1938), which espoused the belief that learning should be about active discovery and problem-solving. In my practice, constructive alignment serves as an integral tool that links students’ active participation with their critical thinking, creating a learning environment where theoretical concepts are understood and applied in meaningful, practical ways.

Creating an engaging and motivating learning environment forms a crucial part of my teaching philosophy. I strive to foster a sense of enthusiasm and joy in my classroom by incorporating humor and relating course content to practical, real-world applications. While I recognize that various theories underline the importance of intrinsic motivation in learning, my approach is more pragmatic and experiential. It is shaped by my interactions with students and the validation of my teaching style through feedback and results.

In this sense, my commitment to quality education manifests not just through my words, but in my actions. I invest a significant amount of time and energy in creating an environment conducive to learning, one where students feel encouraged to actively participate and grapple with the complexities of computer science. Each teacher has their unique style and personality, and for me, authenticity and commitment have proven to be key elements that contribute positively to the learning environment.

To cater to the diverse needs and preferences of my students, I incorporate a blend of teaching materials including an online book, videos, and practical hands-on programming exercises. While the concept of learning styles is a contentious issue in educational literature, providing various means to engage with the content acknowledges students’ individual differences and broadens their learning opportunities.

Assessment, in my vision, is not merely a tool to measure understanding, but an integral part of the learning process that can drive deeper comprehension and application of knowledge. This philosophy finds resonance in Wiggins’ concept of authentic assessment (Wiggins, 1990), which advocates for the use of tasks that mirror real-world challenges as a means of evaluating students’ knowledge and skills.

In line with this, my assessments primarily involve projects and programming exercises that offer students a practical and authentic measure of their understanding. In the Programming line of Module 2, for example, the examinations I prepare predominantly consist of small programming exercises. These tasks span a range of intended learning outcomes that students have practiced in the practical exercises prior to the exam. While there are some theoretical questions that require students to explain their choices or link them to the underlying theory of programming, the bulk of the assessment is grounded in practical application. This blend of theory and practice is intentional, as it allows students to demonstrate their understanding of the course material in a real-world context.

In supplement to the individual exams, I also include a major programming project conducted in pairs, which covers all intended learning outcomes. This not only offers students an opportunity to collaboratively apply the concepts learned in class but also serves as a comprehensive review of the course content.

Similarly, in courses like the Graph Isomorphism Project (Module 7), Logic Programming (Module 8), and SAT&SMT (Module 9), assessment is primarily driven through programming assignments. This approach to assessment, focusing on practical applications and real-world scenarios, supports my commitment to ’learning by doing’ and helps students understand the relevance of their studies.

Beyond the delivery of content, I see the creation of a positive, inclusive, and engaging learning environment as a crucial component of effective teaching. Leveraging technology, I create interactive and flexible learning experiences that cater to diverse learning preferences and needs. This practice aligns with Mayer’s Principles of Multimedia Learning (Mayer, 2001), which emphasize the effective use of multimedia to aid comprehension and retention.

Pre-recorded videos, for instance, allow students to learn at their own pace, pausing, rewinding, and rewatching as necessary. Meanwhile, interactive quizzes provide immediate feedback and reinforcement of learning, contributing to better retention and understanding.

My teaching also makes use of communication platforms like Discord, which I believe is an essential tool for fostering an open and inclusive learning environment. The platform facilitates low-barrier communication, giving students the opportunity to ask questions and discuss course material in real time. It encourages a level of interaction and engagement that can be difficult to achieve in traditional lecture settings, especially in larger courses.

Furthermore, I employ a team of dedicated teaching assistants in all my courses, reinforcing the availability of support and guidance for students. The teaching assistants are instrumental in facilitating lab sessions and practical exercises, and their expertise complements the learning process by offering additional perspectives and explanations. This strategy aims to remove any barriers that might inhibit students from asking questions and fully participating in their own learning journey.

In essence, my vision of a conducive learning environment involves a synergy of technology, dedicated support, and an ethos of inclusivity and respect.

As I continue to evolve as an educator, I remain committed to reflecting on my teaching practice, seeking feedback, and staying abreast of advances in my field. Lifelong learning is not just a principle I impart to my students; it is a commitment I make to my own personal and professional development.

Vision on supervision

In my role as a supervisor, my vision is grounded in the principle of student-centered learning. I believe in cultivating an environment that spurs intellectual curiosity and encourages active participation, with the students holding the reins of their own project.

I see myself as a facilitator rather than a director, guiding students on their academic journey while giving them the autonomy to steer their learning. I emphasize the importance of preparation and expect students to approach our meetings with clear discussion points or thoughtful inquiries. This is intended not to confine their thoughts but to encourage them to engage deeply with the subject matter.

Planning forms a key aspect of my supervision style. I strive to establish a clear, flexible roadmap at the outset of any project. This plan is not set in stone; instead, it is revisited and refined regularly to accommodate new insights, unexpected challenges, or shifts in direction. The goal is to provide a structured framework within which the students can navigate, experiment, and grow.

In essence, my vision for supervision is a harmonious blend of structure and spontaneity, where students are given the freedom to explore within an organized learning landscape. I aim to foster an environment that values the quest for knowledge as much as the knowledge itself and encourages students to be the architects of their learning experience.

I apply this vision by aligning with the student(s) in the first week, emphasizing the first goal of setting out with a very clear knowledge question that follows the curiosity of the student and is reasonably attainable within the research period. As a supervisor, I help the student get started on formulating reasonable research questions and translating the research question into smaller work packages. I provide guidance here by letting students propose a reasonable division into tasks and planning, and give feedback in order to help them strengthen their methodology and planning. I ask for a clear Gantt chart to visualize the proposed planning and emphasize that the planning is not set in stone.