Teaching Overview

I'm a software developer. When a developer intends to build a computer program that is a working solution to a problem, then one of the first things that he/she does is to identify the specifications (or desired outcomes) of the computer program. This gives the developer a clear target to shoot for. I've discovered that being the instructor of a course actually has a striking similarity to being a developer: as the instructor, it is basically my job to "program and develop the course" with respect to "learning specifications". In pedagogy, such learning specifications are called Course Learning Outcomes (CLO). CLOs are crucial for "programming and developing a course" with an approach called Backwards Course Design (BCD). For instance, I view this in terms of the following analogy:

  • In order for a computer program to be a successful working solution for users, it must meet certain specifications, which must be clear and concise in the developer's mind at all times during design, implementation, and execution. Similarly, in order for a course to be a successful learning solution for students, it must meet the CLOs, which must be clear and concise in the instructor’s mind (and ideally the students’ minds as well) at all times during design, implementation, and execution.

Thus, I use BCD according to the following "backwards" procedure:

  1. First, I establish the CLOs. In other words, I determine what content and topics that my students should be exposed to, determine which knowledge and skills they should master, and determine which "big ideas" and skills they should retain for the future.
  2. Second, I establish acceptable evidence of student learning with respect to the CLOs. In other words, I think about how I'll decide if my students are beginning to master the knowledge and skills that I want them to acquire. Moreover, I determine what I'll accept as evidence indicating that my students are actually "getting it" and making solid progress in order to achieve the CLOs. For example. I'll consider various assessment methods ranging from the "more casual" ungraded, informal, in-class "walk-by" assessments (ex. when I can walk by to directly interact with my students during in-class, team-based, practice activities) to the "more strict" graded, formal, summative assessments (ex. midterms, final exams, final projects, etc.).
  3. Third, I establish "the meat" of the lessons, activities, and assignments with learning objectives that are in direct alignment with the CLOs. Here I start planning how to actually teach the in-class lessons and how to design the homework, projects, etc. to facilitate effective, inclusive, and interactive student learning. For this I strive to determine the best exercises for developing my students' ability to achieve the day-by-day learning objectives and ultimately the CLOs. Moreover, I think about how such exercises may fit into an effective practice routine that scaffolds as the course progresses. For each of the in-class lessons, I aim to facilitate some form of interactive learning that is based on a mixture of team-based exercises, mini-lectures, live demonstrations, and/or think-pair-share exercises.

List of Courses Taught

Course Title Semester Time # Students Syllabus Description
MATH 108 Intermediate Algebra Fall 2014 1:30-2:45pm 42 Syllabus
MATH 143 College Algebra Spring 2015 3-4:15pm 42 Syllabus
MATH 108 Intermediate Algebra Fall 2015 6-7:15pm 17 Syllabus
MATH 143 College Algebra Fall 2015 6-7:15pm 16 Syllabus
MATH 108 Intermediate Algebra Spring 2016 7:30-8:45pm 13 Syllabus
MATH 143 College Algebra Spring 2016 7:30-8:45pm 14 Syllabus
CS 121 Computer Science I Spring 2016 1:30-2:45pm 30 Syllabus
MATH 108 Intermediate Algebra Fall 2016 7:30-8:45pm 18 Syllabus
MATH 143 College Algebra Fall 2016 7:30-8:45pm 20 Syllabus
CS 121 Computer Science I Spring 2017 9:00-10:15am 25 Syllabus

In my experience, most of the CLOs for computer science and mathematics courses are roughly the same. For instance, while teaching the said courses at BSU, I discovered that although the content of these courses varies greatly, the underlying principles forming the foundation of the CLOs are invariant; that is, upon completion of any such computer science or mathematics course, a successful student will be able to:

  • Use and create strategies to derive, design, and/or implement working solutions to problems.
  • Evaluate a given strategy or solution in order to explain (in English) why it is appropriate and how it addresses the problem with algorithmic, mathematical, and/or logical reasoning.
Here are some practical examples of lesson plans from my College Algebra course of Fall 2015 that I created via BCD.

[Figure 0] An example of my lesson plan for week 2 of my Fall 2015 College Algebra course.

An example of my lesson plan for week 2 of my Fall 2015 College Algebra course using BCD

[Figure 1] An example of my lesson plan from October 26, 2015 of week 10 of my Fall 2015 College Algebra course.

An example of my lesson plan for week 10 of my Fall 2015 College Algebra course using BCD

[Figure 2] An example of my lesson plan from November 11, 2015 of week 13 of my Fall 2015 College Algebra course.

An example of my lesson plan for week 13 of my Fall 2015 College Algebra course using BCD