I wholeheartedley support the mission of the college and throughout this application I provide evidence of my support. Below I discuss various tenets in the mission and when applicable provide links to other areas in the report where further evidence and discussions can be found.
I believe that in order to train students to be great leaders and problem solvers we must provide them with fundamental knowledge from across the disciplines. It is from this diverse store of knowledge that students will uncover new truths by identifying previously unknown connections between disparate ideas.
Most higher education institutions require students to engage in learning outside of their primary fields of interest. Liberal arts colleges, however, place a higher emphasis on this by purposefully structuring general education requirements to fulfill a range of specific student learning objectives. The fundamental goal is often to develop the whole person and prepare them for a life of learning. I believe these goals are important and believe the educational experience gained by student participation in a liberal arts program is valuable.
Other valuable goals of a liberal arts education include learning how to actively listen, effectively communicate ideas, understand others' perspectives, develop sound plans of action, and work with others to achieve common goals. It is with these and other goals in mind that I, in the summer of 2016, approached Dr. Jamie Frueh, Director of the Center for Engaged Learning, to discuss creating a program that would help encourage students to form interdisciplinary teams in order to solve real-world problems that they were collectively passionate about. Dr. Frueh was immediately interested and brought Dr. Randy Young, Director of the Zane D. Showker Institute for Responsible Leadership, on board to discuss it further. Soon thereafter I presented them with a detailed plan for what is now known as The Showker Prize. The Showker Prize, now in its third year, is an annual contest where students form interdisciplinary teams in order to solve challenging problems with the hopes of winning a $5000.00 prize and their names on the Showker Cup.
As the computer science faculty continue our program review this academic year, we believe that our program should intentionally support the goals established in our F.I.L.A. program. In the professional goals statement found later in this application I explore how I intend to enhance the liberal arts at Bridgewater College. The initiatives that I propose are a new FILA-150 topic, an Honors course, and a quantitative literacy course that would fulfill the Master Core Skill in Mathematics general education requirement. I also propose scaffolding learning objectives derived from the F.I.L.A. program objectives in our computer science program.
A liberal arts education can provide a student with a strong foundation from which they can live a thoughtful life and achieve their potential. The administration, faculty and staff at Bridgewater College work hard to provide a quality experience that meets the goals of a liberal arts education, of which I am proud to be a part.
One of the best ways that I can motivate students is by being interested and enthusiastic about the subject matter being discussed. Below are the mean scores for the statement The instructor seemed interested and enthusiastic about the subject in my course evaluations over the past 5 years.
Clearly, students see that I love my work. My hope is that I can develop in them the same passion for computing that I have.
I understand that the current generation of students learn best by doing, so one of the ways that I try to engage and motivate our students is by incorporating frequent active learning activities in my lectures. In the next section on fostering student growth I discuss this in depth. In addition, in some courses I use entry and pop quizzes to encourage extrinsically motivated students to work outside of class and prepare for my lectures. These are most effective when I've been able to prepare a set of quizzes before the semester begins.
I also strive to make in-class and homework assignments interesting and engaging. One that comes to mind is the Gladiators assignment that I created for CSCI-330 Operating Systems. For this assignment students created programs that attempted to write an assigned numeric value to as many bytes as they could in a certain segment of RAM, while another student's program was attempting to write their assigned numeric value to the same bytes. I wrote an Arena program which they could use to test their programs, and on the day the programs were due we held a double-elimination bracketed tournament. It was a riot in the lab! During each battle, the students were cheering on the student they hoped would to win, but also witnessing the various strategies that could be used and noting which ones were successful and which ones were not. I encourage you to visit my course websites and view some of the other assignments that I have assigned to my students.
Another way I motivate students is with a final grade policy. The policy is applicable for any non-project based courses. The policy, as stated in the Course and Classroom Policies document that I hand out as part of my syllabus, reads as follows:
Understanding that knowledge is acquired over time, if a student consistently shows a strong work ethic throughout the course and the course has a cumulative final exam, their final letter grade will be based on whichever numeric grade is greater: the student's course grade and the student's final exam grade. Otherwise the student's final letter grade will be based solely on the student's course grade as defined in the syllabus. A student is considered to consistently show a strong work ethic throughout the course if the student
- Abides by all classroom policies
- Has perfect attendance (see below) and is attentive during every class
- Submits every homework assignment on time
- Receives scores that are 65 or greater on all coursework
This policy helps me maintain nearly 100% attendance in my lectures and a nearly 100% submission rate on homework throughout the semester. I believe the reason this policy motivates students to attend class and submit homework on time is because it gives them hope throughout the semester. If they show strong work ethic but perform poorly on a midterm exam the policy gives them an opportunity to save their G.P.A. and earn a good grade in the course.
Despite these policies and activities, I still have a couple of students in class that are not as invested in courses as they could be. In an effort to learn new strategies that I can use to reach these students I recently attended a talk given by Elizabeth Dickens and Adriana Streifer titled 'Enhancing Student Learning through Metacognition'. The talk was very informative and helped me understand that the students who are not engaged may not think the content is relevant to them or they may not believe they are capable of meeting my expectations. I am now making a conscious effort to discuss how the knowledge being studied is connected to real life problems and how what they are learning will help them. I'm also being more active in speaking and writing words of encouragement.
Finally, I motivate them by consistently reminding them that they are in control of their own destinies and that they will accomplish great things and be great computer scientists if they, among other things, are mindful of their priorities, can dedicate time to experimentation, and don't settle for not knowing.
I'll often try to illustrate the idea that they are in control by sharing with them the following words by Jeff Duntemann written in his book Assembly Language Step-by-Step: Programming with Linux. I believe he expresses this idea succinctly.
... what I'm after (is) to show you
the way to understand what every however distant corner of your machine is doing,
and how all its many pieces work together.
This doesn't mean I explain every corner of it myself
- no one will live long enough to do that.
Computing isn't simple anymore,
but if you develop the discipline of patient research and experimentation,
you can probably work it out for yourself.
Ultimately, that's the only way to learn it: by yourself.
The guidance you find- in friends, [in me,] on the Net, in books ...
- is only guidance, and grease on the axles.
You have to decide who is to be the master, you or the machine,
and make it so.
I begin helping students grow on the first day of class when I promote strategies for success. In my Course and Classroom Policies document I recommend that students visit me in my office if they are uncertain about anything taught in the course, to start assignments early, and to visit me if they have a bug that they cannot find. I recommend they form study groups, and I act as match maker for students who cannot find a study group to join. I encourage students to determine, as early as possible, if they need a tutor and if so to take advantage of the resources available to them.
I also foster student growth by making learning fun and engaging. This often includes active learning components. This semester, for example, I've been experimenting in class with pairing the better performing students in the class with the poorer performing students and asking them to perform active learning exercises that includes tasks with different degrees of difficulty. This approach seems to be effective. I have been observing improved confidence and performance in the initially poorer performing students and have observed improved comprehension in the stronger students as they share with their peers how they approach problems and provide reasoning as to why their solutions work.
Other courses that I have taught that are engaging and are centered around active learning include:
In Web API Programming and Animation & 3D Programming, students purchase their own domain names and web host and work throughout the semester on developing content for a web site. These sites are live and publicly facing, and students often maintain these sites well after the course ends. In Scripting Languages, each student spawns a virtual machine in the cloud on Amazon's Web Services and works on that machine throughout the semester. In Mobile Application Development, students design, build, and test their own Android application. In each of these cases, the student creates a tangible system that is theirs, and theirs alone. This sense of ownership encourages pride, which in turn provides incentive to learn in order to enhance what is theirs.
In our student's second course in the major, CSCI-200 Intermediate Programming, I use one lecture to take our students to the cafe. There, while sipping overpriced coffees, we discuss their career goals and how to achieve them. I include in this discussion advice on ways that they can make themselves stand out from their peers come graduation. This includes working on projects and activities in their free time that are not associated with their coursework (e.g. The Showker Prize). It also includes tutoring, participating in programming contests, and solving Kattis or Project Euler problems.
Another way that I help students grow is by helping them pursue, as coursework, knowledge in areas that are of interest to them. While at Bridgewater College I've been an advisor on 23 Independent Study courses covering topics such as the Internet of Things, network and system penetration testing, 3D video game development, and machine learning. Although I know a little about each of these topics, none of them are areas in which I'm an expert. Nonetheless, I'm happy to help manage students' learning.
I've also helped advise 10 talented students on research projects. Each of these projects are discussed in the scholarship section of this report.
Additionally, I help foster student growth outside of the classroom. For example, I've taken students to D.C. and to the National Cryptologic Museum and have coached a couple dozen students at 5 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) annual programming competitions. These and other acts of service can be viewed in the service section of this report.
You are a reflection of the company you keep.
Some time ago I heard that phrase. It resonated with me then, and it still does today. As an educator at a small residential college I am cognizant of the fact that I am in company with my students and to some degree they are a reflection of me. I believe my enthusiasm for learning encourages many of my students to be enthusiastic about learning and my intolerance to bigotry and sexism promotes a similar intolerance in their minds. I believe that the concern and kindness that I show to them leads them to be concerned about and kind to others, and that the ethical standards that I abide by are a model for them as well.
I also expect students to abide by the college Honor Code. I have a zero tolerance for cheating, lying, and plagiarism, and utilize the college's Student Honor Council for all instances where I believe a student has violated the Honor Code. Although I have in the past, I no longer ignore instances of cheating as I believe it is my responsibility to uphold the ethical standards expressed in the College Honor Code, to teach students about responsibility, and to help ensure the college is only awarding degrees to competent and ethical individuals. I should add too, that I do not take violations of the Honor Code personally. I believe that most students who cheat or plagiarize are good people that have a momentary lapse of good judgment.
I understand that when students take exams they are under a great deal of stress and so I do my best to provide an environment that makes it nearly impossible for them to cheat. I've taken a cue from some of the Biology professors and require students to place their backpacks and electronics, including smart watches, at the front of the room. For some classes I've asked students to sit in every other row and for some classes I've assigned seats to avoid friends sitting next to one another. If the exam is an open book exam or if calculators are permitted, I don't allow student to share resources until one of the students has handed in their exam.
I believe everyone should be treated equally and with respect regardless of the labels that individuals or society place on them. As an instructor, it is vitally important that I provide a safe and welcoming classroom environment where everyone is free to ask questions, be themselves, and express their points of view.
I wasn't here very long, back in 2013, when I heard a male student make a sexist comment at the beginning of class. It took a simple acknowlegement of, "Dude, that's sexist!" and an adamant look to make him rethink his attitude. Some time soon thereafter, I called out a second young man on his sexism, and that was the end of it. I haven't heard a sexist comment in any of my classes since. I didn't shame the students, I just made it clear in front of their peers that sexist and other derogatory speech would not be tolerated in my classes.
My door is always open to students who need support and someone to talk to and I'm honored when students feel comfortable enough to trust me with the issues that they are facing. At various points over the past 5.5 years I've helped students connect with counselors, I've been obligated to make reports to the Title IX coordinator, and on a number of occasions I've found it necessary to reach out to the CARES team. This is what we do. We're all on the same team trying to help our students navigate the anxieties felt in college, the pain in transitioning, and the issues at home among other things.
Finally, as a member of various hiring committees over the last 5.5 years, I have helped hire new faculty members from underrepresented groups. I believe a diverse faculty makes our collective voice richer and our institution stronger and more vibrant.