Anyone momentarily tempted to lend credence to media-driven narratives of “the decline student engagement” needs to familiarize him or herself with David Malan’s Computer Science 50 course–and a good place to start would be the annual Innovations Fair that showcases the CS 50 students’ labors and learning. If you missed it this year, you can find the Gazette’s write-up here, and our own Bok TV video is embedded below.
Three things become clear in our conversations with the participants (both teachers and students):
1. The students are deeply invested in the final projects because they are solving concrete real-world problems rather than abstractions.
2. The students are engaged because they have ownership over their final projects (note the way Ben Massenburg ’11 emphasizes that the students’ capstone projects aren’t the product of “what we tell them to do”).
3. The final projects reveal not merely that the students have learned the course material, but, as Kristiana Laugen ’13 puts it, they’ve “learned how to learn,” so they can now teach themselves.
I’m particularly struck by this final point–the metacognitive leap whereby the students move from simply knowing some pre-established body of material to “knowing how to know.” But all three points resonate with some of the most widely accepted claims one finds in the recent scholarship on teaching and learning.
Those interested in creating similarly rich learning experiences in their own classes (or in exploring the research and theory that lies behind these practices) should feel free to drop by the Bok Center, either to chat with the staff about concrete tactics and strategies, or to browse through our library of recent (and classic) works on teaching and learning.