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A teaching statement for my triennial review

As I’ve noted recently, I am up for my triennial salary review this year. I get to write a lot of different things for the review, including statements on teaching, scholarship, service, and diversity. Today’s musing is a draft of my teaching statement.

I find the statement a bit challenging to write. We’re asked to write one or two paragraphs about teaching, the thing that is most core to what we do. And I’m always trying something new in my classes. During this period, I took on the new software design sequence, tried teaching online and supervising students learning in a MOOC, continued some courses I’ve taught before, and took on our Algorithms course. What do I focus on? And how do I avoid my inclination to just count? More importantly, how do I express the joy I find in each day in the classroom or the impact I see on the students I talk to? It doens’t feel like the prompts really ask for that. In the end, I gave relatively shallow responses that touch on the many things I’ve done.

If you believe there are end of course evaluation results that need to be clarified, please explain.

My end-of-course-evaluation results in CSC 321 and CSC 322 are by far the lowest I have received in my career. CSC 321 and CSC 322 were brand new courses, introduced in 2014-15, to address problems with our existing software design courses, CSC 323 and CSC 325. Janet Davis used her sabbatical to design the new course model and prepare herself to teach those courses. I taught and am teaching CSC 321 and CSC 322 not because I want to, but because they are an essential part of our curriculum and when Janet left I was the member of the department least unsuited to teaching those courses. (Lots of whining elided [1].)

In one to two paragraphs describe your most significant teaching, athletic coaching, or library instructional accomplishment(s) during this three-year review period. If possible, phrase your discussion in terms of impact on students and/or the campus learning community.

I taught eight different courses during this review period (CSC 151, CSC 195, CSC 207, CSC 281, CSC 282, CSC 301, CSC 321, and CSC 322), four of which were new or new to me: CSC 301, CSC 321, CSC 322, and CSC 195, a new online course offered with Global Online Academy on coding for the arts. I think I made good contributions in each of those courses. In taking over CSC 301, I chose a new, active-learning approach to the course that focused on students developing and analyzing each other’s algorithms and data structures before they read about the traditional solutions to problems (the literature of our discipline, as it were). I think the approach will be successful in the long term, but does require more feedback to students. While my end-of-course-evaluations for CSC 321 and CSC 322 are low, I see significant impact on the students in enhancing their capacity to deal with uncertainty, their ability to find information on new languages and technologies, and, most importantly, their soft skills (e.g., working with non-technical community partners, working in groups). The Art of Code course provided me with an opportunity to develop a course that was closer to a Studio Art course than a traditional CS course, to explore how one teaches online, and to develop a course that bridges my interests in computing and the arts. My GOA Instructional Designer tells me that I was particularly successful at building community in that course. I hope that I have the chance to teach it again. Beyond my normal supervision of MAPs and MIPS, I also supervised a group of students within the College’s experimental Guided Learning approach, exploring the possibility of leveraging large online courses.

During this period, I taught and advised significantly more students than the College norms. At the time of preregistration in spring 2017, I had over seventy advisees. I currently have fifty-five advisees. As I noted above, I taught a very large number of students during this three-year period which means that my teaching naturally impacted a broad array of students. One of the highlights of not just the past three years, but of my twenty years at Grinnell, is being honored for the impact I’ve had on students by being appointed as an honorary member of the Grinnell College class of 2017.

In one to two paragraphs provide your teaching, athletic coaching, or library instructional goals for the next three-year period.

In summer and fall 2017, I designed and taught a new version of CSC 151 that emphasizes ideas from data science. In fall 2018, I expect to design a second new version that emphasizes digital humanities. I plan to teach that new version in spring 2019. Over the next few years, I hope to be able to continue to teach and refine both versions and to release my teaching materials as Open Educational Resources. I’d also like another opportunity to teach with Global Online Academy.

Beyond that, I’m not sure that there’s a real point to making plans for the next three to five years. I’ll be on leave for part of the time. More importantly, as senior tenured member of the department, I am likely to take the courses that others don’t want to teach. Given a choice, I would very much like to teach Tutorial again [2]; it’s been much too long. But the Dean is reluctant to have us teach Tutorial given our other demands and I know my junior colleagues need an opportunity to teach Tutorial. So I’ll take what comes.

Hmmm. This statement looks much longer on the Web than it does in the document I downloaded from Sedona. But it is important to talk about the new courses I designed or taught.

[1] Do I feel bad that the Faculty Salary Committee has to read my whining? Yes. Do I nonetheless consider it important that they understand the situation I was in? Certainly. Could I be less whiny? Possibly.

[2] Readers of Grinnell Plans know that I was already planning for my next Tutorial topic three or so years ago. I really do miss it.

Version 1.0 of 2017-10-30.