I have the benefit of being a “non-traditional age” college student. That means I’m in my 40’s and going to college to finish my degree. I also have the benefit of having one of the best teachers I’ve ever had for my Programming 1 class. He is really concerned that we learn what he is teaching. He doesn’t care if we pass the class, if we haven’t learned the material. It is rare to have a teacher like that, especially in college.
He told us the other day that he also teaches a private high school over the Internet. He said that unfortunately the class he is teaching these high school students is Visual Basic. He’s afraid it is too advanced for beginning programmers to learn. He said that the other day he had a conference with each of his students and said that within five minutes he knew if they were learning what he was teaching. Out of seven students he said two were “getting it”, two were struggling, and three had no idea what was going on. Those three were just going through the motions, and would probably get a C in the class, but they weren’t really understanding and learning what he was teaching.
I really enjoy his method of teaching, because he takes the time to help us understand and learn the material. Sure he gives us quizzes and programming projects for homework, but instead of us just doing the homework, “going through the motions” as he calls it, he also has us practice on paper the concepts he teaches.
For example, this week we learned about arrays. We learned how to define an array, how to fill it, how to display the contents of an array, how to pass an array to a function, and much more. At the end of class he gave us an assignment to rewrite a program we wrote last week, but to use an array to represent four test scores, instead of four variables. However, that wasn’t all. He also assigned us to practice with pencil the following: create, fill, display, total, average, and find the lowest value of arrays.
Next week in class he’ll start by having us take out a piece of paper. Then he’ll say, “I want you to create an array of four items, call the array scores. Just write the array declaration.” Then we’ll do it on our paper, then he’ll do it on the board. He’ll then ask us if we did it correctly or have any questions. Then he’ll have us do the same exercise for filling, displaying, totaling, averaging and finding the lowest value of an array.
By practicing as part of our homework, and by going over it in class, not just our homework, but him giving us direction and us drafting the solutions on loose leaf paper, we’re really learning what he is teaching. Unfortunately many teachers are not teaching this way, so the students are just going through the motions and not really learning. This is the failure of education and unfortunately, the reality in many cases.