It seems kind of wild to say this, but I’ve been teaching for 8 semesters now. I’m not sure where that puts me in terms of expertise as an educator, but I’ve definitely learned a lot. Let’s talk about the lessons I learned this past semester.
Table of Contents
Perhaps unsurprisingly, in my 8th semester of teaching, I’m still running the software components course (CSE2221). Unlike last semester, I only had one section of 40 students from 10:20 AM – 11:15 AM Tuesday through Friday. As usual, Tuesdays and Thursdays were for lectures while Wednesdays and Fridays were for labs.
At the risk of boring you with all the details, I’ll go ahead and move on to the grade breakdown. In short, grades were very high this semester:
You’re free to look into the grades a bit more yourself over on my educator dashboard, but most of this shift was out of my control due to exams. That said, I’ll happily take a course where grades aren’t a concern. Anyway, let’s get to the reflection.
Again, like the last semester, I think I’ve really hit my groove as an educator. In two semesters now, I haven’t really had any real negatives to talk about. That’s not to say bad things didn’t happen, but my overall experience has been an overwhelming net positive. So to keep with the last reflection, I’ll share the good and bad.
As mentioned above, the biggest positive for me this semester was grades. Usually, I’m constantly fighting with grades to keep students motivated, and a lot of it is out of my direct control. After all, I have graders, and I don’t make the assignments or exams. However, over the last few semesters, I have been working to build out rubrics, checklists, and learning objectives to ensure students know exactly what they need to do to succeed.
Weirdly enough, exams were also significantly easier this past semester. I have no clue why, but I’m very excited about the change. This makes the course less about high impact exams and more about the actual learning. Overall, I think students are more receptive when they can feel themselves being successful.
While this past semester went smoothly, I ran into some issues with grading. Specifically, our grades were tracked throughout the semester instead of just at the end. The consequence was a few more headaches for me throughout the semester as I had to justify high grades. Overall, it seems the faculty trust me, but it doesn’t make those touchpoints any less stressful for me.
Outside of that, I’d say the course went really well, and I had some awesome students who I hope go on to do great things.
Every semester, the most painful portion of this article to put together is the feedback section. Rather than paste a bunch of graphs and talk about the minor changes, I’m going to direct you to my educator dashboard. Heads up! It takes like a full minute to load sometimes due to free hosting. Please be patient. In the meantime, I’ll use this section to briefly summarize the overall trends as well as my favorite part, the quotes.
Course Evaluation Survey
At the end of each semester, I share the course evaluation survey. It’s very similar to the student evaluation of instruction survey provided by the university, but I leave more space for student comments. In short, survey results are all as expected. Let’s get into it!
To start, here’s a quick dump of the plots:
In addition to the usual quantitative data, I also ask students about the aspects of the course the students found most valuable:
Learning coding practices and learning coding problem solving methods.Anonymous, Autumn 2022
Definitely the projects. They were tedious and frustrating at times, but they were where I learned the most and gained the most skills. I had an issue with every single project but one being completely templated out, and probably would’ve gained more with a little freedom built into projects the way the Glossary project was.Anonymous, Autumn 2022
The instructorAnonymous, Autumn 2022
Learning to program in Java and working in a java centric IDEAnonymous, Autumn 2022
Data structure and recursionAnonymous, Autumn 2022
I found the more generalized concepts of the course (for example data structures) to be more helpful than the more specific Java related topics.Anonymous, Autumn 2022
And of course, we can’t escape without asking about ways to improve the course:
I think sometimes we take steps that are too large, meaning student may need more time or guidance on a topic before he/she is confident enough to proceed with doing a project.Anonymous, Autumn 2022
The slides of GUI can be more detailedAnonymous, Autumn 2022
OSU components. Yeah..Anonymous, Autumn 2022
Better PowerPoint slidesAnonymous, Autumn 2022
Build a little more freedom into the structure of projects, to get students to practice making appropriate methods themselves and perhaps the syntax of class/method/main method declarations.Anonymous, Autumn 2022
I’m unfamiliar with other versions of Java but after hearing how outdated the course is, I would probably update the content to reflect how Java is used in CS today.Anonymous, Autumn 2022
The part that usually brings me the most joy is the section dedicated to testimonials. Here’s what students said:
You described things we needed to know very well during lecture and have us relevant content/practice examples to help us learn and it worked. I think there should be a better way to have us learn in the ‘jigsaw’ activities or whatever they’re called. I think a little more direction with groups or who should research what would go a long way in helping us learn.Anonymous, Autumn 2022
I love your teaching. You acknowledge the limitations of the course, and you transparently share what information will be useful in the future and what may be outdated. You explain topics in a way that’s easy to understand and apply, especially with difficult topics like recursion. I find the think-pair-share teaching model helpful. You are prompt with feedback and communication, and while I may have found Discord an odd choice of communicating, it’s worked really well and I hope my future classmates/professors set up discords too.Anonymous, Autumn 2022
One of the best instructors I’ve met in STEAM field. A perfect fit for entry level class. Really good at explaining hard subjects in a understandable wayAnonymous, Autumn 2022
He cares a lot about his students and makes the class fair. He still follows the appropriate actions for a professor (ex: makes sure we follow all academic conduct rules implemented by the program). I believe his a model of what the CSE department can be, and should be.Anonymous, Autumn 2022
I like the pattern that exercises followed by one question, which is useful to strength the memory. And I love that Jeremy gave us twice thinking and discussion chances before knowing the answer!☺️ Because if we know the answer first, we will unconsciously consider the questions in the correct answer way. That’s not good for studying.Anonymous, Autumn 2022
Excellent; genuinely wants students to succeed and uses/creates resources to help students work through and navigate sometimes a rather difficult environmentAnonymous, Autumn 2022
Finally, I leave some space to steal article ideas from my students.
Toxicity in the department, Are you smart enough for computer science (talk about what it takes and how to overcoming not feeling good enough)Anonymous, Autumn 2022
Data visualization in sports (how to read the data, create a program to understand it, and output charts/graphs about the results (and/or anything else)). It seemed very interesting and relevant when you mentioned it.Anonymous, Autumn 2022
Something relatively new I’ve been using is the assignment survey to gather information about individual assignments. While there are sections for comments, it’s hard to parse through the 300+ responses. As a result, here’s another graph dump:
You might also recall that I started collecting data about emotions. The graph needs some work, but here’s the overview:
Student Evaluation of Instruction
At this point, I would usually drop the raw data from my students for the semester, but that’s a bit of a pain. So, here’s a plot that’ll give you a feel for the scores as they compare to every semester I’ve taught:
That said, if you really want the raw data, you can find it here. At any rate, here are some of my favorite comments:
Professor Grifski is an incredible professor who works diligently to prepare his students for the rigours of computer science. He is more than reasonable with arranging time to speak with students and labours to ensure that students feel capable and equipped to follow the curriculum. Professor Grifski’s dedication to education and empathy create a classroom community where everybody feels safe, competent and capable of learning, and ready to assist one another. He is rigorous but just, and Ohio State University should count itself lucky to have him.Anonymous, Autumn 2022
This was my first computer science class going beyond the basics of coding and syntax, so it helped me connect with the computer science community by learning more uses of the medium and best practices. It was also great having the class discord where you could ask questions and get a quick response from an instructor or another student. (Even in the late hours of the night, as it seemed.)Anonymous, Autumn 2022
Professor Grifski is truly a great teacher. He helped the students understand the subject matter thoroughly and would ensure that they understood the concepts. He encouraged everyone to chat with each other and create a community of sorts which manifested itself into a great atmosphere. He treats you as an equal and is not condescending in the slightest bit which also contributed to the truly remarkable classroom environment. Though the one gripe was when reviewing his slides was a bit vague and did require more studying but the concepts when learning was conducted well. He is a role model for how teaching should be done.Anonymous, Autumn 2022
He was incredibly helpful and understanding of our situations. His classes were structured to encourage discussion and peer–learning, and it was very helpful. He transparently understood the limitations of the course, and strove to introduce us to how the real world applies/doesn’t apply what we learn in class. He was easily my favorite instructor during my time at Ohio State so far.Anonymous, Autumn 2022
With all that out of the way, here are my plans heading into the next semester. First, I updated Pymon to allow students to grow her knowledge. If you’re not already familiar with Pymon, she’s basically a Q&A tool I wrote for discord. Students can ask her questions, and she tries to answer them by finding matching queries. How cool is that?
At this point in the course, I’m looking to make less sweeping changes, so the only other changes I plan to make are to improve existing materials like assignment keys. That said, it would be nice to make up a couple practice exams for students. I don’t think I’ll have time to do that this break, but it would be cool idea.
Outside of that, I think I’m going to keep doing what I do.
Next semester, I’ve been asked to teach two sections of the course again. This time the courses are in the afternoon running from 3 PM to 5 PM. At the same time, I’ll be starting my research, so that should be a lot of fun. Did I mention I’m a PhD candidate? As a result, I only expect this series to go on for like three more semesters—at least in my current role! See y’all on the other side.
With that said, that’s all I got! If you liked this article and want to show your support, consider checking out my list of ways to grow the site. Alternatively, you can check out some of these related articles:
- Making Drastic Changes in My PhD Journey
- Crafting My Fall Teaching Plans Based on Assignment Feedback
- I Won the Graduate Associate Teaching Award!
Otherwise, have a good one! I’ll see you next time.
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