Guzdial’s Myths

Reading various posts this morning, I came upon Mark Guizdial’s Top 10 Myths about Teaching Computer Science. It’s a good read, especially for its overview of the state of the dialogue and the research around learning computer science. There really is a huge gender disparity in computer science and the problem is not just getting more curriculum out there.

The myths are straw men in the sense that I think many of the teachers I know who are trying to teach CS don’t subscribe to them. And Guzdial doesn’t spend time documenting where these myths come from. But the list can be the basis for some good discussions at CTRL-Shift meetings. I’m particularly interested in hearing the group’s thoughts on the items about Active Learning, which is a documented successful strategy, but “learning styles” is a persistent myth.

2 thoughts on “Guzdial’s Myths

  1. Umm… if an instructor has been taught active learning methods, why is “more students came to lectures” a measurement, let alone a good measurement? #somethingDoesntAddUp

    I think that means that you have to show up if you’re going to be involved in an active learning session. Whereas, if you have even the most charismatic of lecturers, there’s no reason you couldn’t just watch the video. So, one measure of success for active learning is that the students thought it was useful to show up.

    As I’ve been thinking more about the learning styles “myth”, I’m wishing he hadn’t included it. I think it’s one of those topics around which too much has been said. There are sensible insights about trying different mechanisms helping students grasp concepts, it’s easy to get into the weeds. It seems as though there’s a backlash again professional development that emphasizes learning styles as a means of organizing curriculum. However, I haven’t really seen much of that kind of PD.

  2. I am a huge fan of any kind of interaction during the learning process (seems like it has gone by many names over the past century or millenia).

    I did find one quote that almost seemed like a typo (under Myth #7):
    “… Nobel laureate Carl Wieman taught a post-doc and a graduate student some active learning methods, then had them teach one week of a section of Physics while a tenured physics professor taught the comparison section. The post-doc and grad student had better learning and better student motivation (e.g., more students came to lectures) than the one taught by the physics professor.”

    Umm… if an instructor has been taught active learning methods, why is “more students came to lectures” a measurement, let alone a good measurement? #somethingDoesntAddUp

    The Scott Freeman study was a little disappointing in that he did not break out what differentiated the students who performed well in the “lecture” learning style versus the “interactive” learning style. I still hold to the tenet that there is no silver bullet, no “one size fits all”. But as a segue to Myth #5 (no such thing as “learning styles”), I would disagree that “research” in general agrees; I can find any number of research papers that argue one way or the other, so who wins? Having said that, I do agree that presenting a variety of methods seems like the best way to go.

    As a almunus of the University of Illinois’ Computer Science department, my perspective is that “science” is largely misunderstood and definitely misapplied. I think the emphasis should be less on “science” and more on developing the skills to use the tools at hand. Computers compute, really really really fast. There is a bonafide science dealing with how you make computers, but using them is a totally different story. Just like any other tool since the stone hammer.

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