Teaching philosophy#

Writing my teaching values and approaches clearly can help me to follow these consistently in my classes. Moreover this text can give you (students) a feeling of what you can expect from me and what I expect from you.

The next sections do not only contain abstract values but also concrete recommendations how to meet your and my expectations.

Equality in class#

The university should be a place where every of you has the time and space to follow their curiosity. In my classes I try to be aware of the personality differences and actively nudge you during the class if you seem to be reluctant to participate.

I am aware that woman are underrepresented especially in computer science and engineering. If you are female, I pay attention that your participation is not hindered by others during the class. Even I may not be a typical role-model for you, giving more space to you in class can help other female students in honing their self-confidence.

My equality principle applies also to varying cultures I meet in my class. I am aware that especially if you come from abroad, you can have problems participating in the same class with native students. Given that I have a similar background I can guide you with my experience.

In my courses there is always a way to anonymously ask a question, e.g., anonymous Moodleoverflow.

Responsibility#

My responsibility is to guide you and your peers to reach the intended learning outcomes of the course. When you come to my class I assume that you are at least partly curious about the topics I cover and open to dedicate time on them. Your curiosity is important, because my goal is not to play the role of the all knowing scholar but to share my own curiosity and approaches. This is a mutual exchange.

Some of you will reach the goals of the course without seeing me once and others will have difficulties to come along. If you have any doubts about the topic, it is your responsibility to clear these doubts. I recommend that you follow these steps:

  1. Try to solve your problem alone, for example by using a search machine.

  2. If not successful, ask your partner or ask in the course forum instead of mailing me directly. This way others may profit from your question and the answers given by me or your peers.

  3. Ask your question during the class. Generally I reserve time for doubts about preparation material in the beginning of the class. If your question is personal, then keep it for the lab session where I assist you individually.

It is your responsibility to prepare for the classes, especially in a flipped class setting. In a typical 5 ECTS 16 week course I expect about 5 hours of self-study every week. I can understand that you may have to work along your studies to make a living, but consider that a semester of 30 ECTS may lead to 47 hours of work per week given 16 weeks of lectures and three weeks of exams. If you have to earn money alongside of your studies, you can take less courses if needed.

Most of the knowledge I teach is openly available and is suitable for self-study so I do not expect you to come to my class. Only come if you think that the class time is useful. Having said that I still encourage to try the class in presence at least for three weeks to get the experience and to help other students to get same.

Didactic methods#

I use the class time for questions, discussions, group work and project presentations instead of pure lecturing. I only give lectures about concepts which are not covered by provided materials or if you need another perspective to the content. This approach is called flipped classroom.

If the curriculum contains projects, I recommend you to present your results at least once to get feedback from me & the class.

During the lab I encourage you to review the last week’s homework/project of a peer and vice-versa. I believe that deeper understanding of some concepts is better achieved by reviewing someone else’s work, asking critical question and giving constructive feedback. I refer to this method in the syllabuses as labs with feedback sessions.

I usually find myself listening to a podcast about science, believing that I know what is going on until I explain the concepts to my partner during our lunch. Explaining how you solved a problem or responding to critical questions from your partner can foster your understanding.

In context of programming courses pair programming may be better, where you collaboratively write code with your partner on the same screen. For best strategy for working with a partner refer to this answer.

Last but not least I record every session and make them available the same day so that you can recite some concepts that you may missed during the class.

Given that the recordings and other materials are available, you may opt for binge studying just some weeks before the exam. I discourage you to do that, because:

Examination#

I clearly define what you can learn at the end of the course (intended learning outcomes) and tailor the content to achieve these goals.

I design the examination according to the intended learning outcomes and try to include graded work other than written exam (portfolio examination) to:

  • motivate you to participate during the semester

  • to test your competences which are hard to grade in a written exam

  • give you a better chance if you do not perform well in short time setting like a 90 minute written exam.

Having said that, I am aware that in classes with large number of students the written exam is the only option due to staff constraints. Moreover some examination regulations may prohibit portfolio examination.

I make all previous exams public to ease your exam preparation. I usually do not copy old questions and create new ones for every exam so I can test for your understanding instead of pure pattern matching.

Grading#

Combining grading and teaching in one person creates a difficult relationship with you. On the one hand I try to share my curiosity and enthusiasm in the taught topics and encourage to you follow your own curiosity. On the other hand I have to grade your work so that it meets my minimum requirements of the curriculum. Following your own curiosity may not lead to a good grade which is a dichotomy between what I try to achieve in my teaching and what the curriculum expects. Still we have to make the best out of this system.

The grading criteria is stated for every class individually. Here you find my general grading approach that apply to all classes.

When I have to qualitatively grade an achievement, I use the following semantic from WP: academic grading in Germany:

  • very good: an outstanding achievement

  • good: an achievement that exceeds the average requirements considerably

  • satisfactory: an achievement that fulfills the requirements despite flaws

  • sufficient: an achievement that barely meets the requirements

  • insufficient: an achievement that does not fulfill requirements due to major flaws

To further differentiate between these main grades their 0.3 increments and decrements are used, e.g., 1.3, 3.7. Moreover 0.7, 4.3, 4.7 do not exist.

If I use points for grading I the following approach to create the grading table:

  1. I mark the exams using points.

  2. Typically I set the passing points to 50%. I lower the passing points if I see that significant amount of students have achieved points just below 50%. My goal is that there is significant gap between the students who have barely passed and others who have failed. I also lower my expectations if I observe that the exam was unreasonably difficult or contains unclear questions in hindsight.

  3. If you have achieved the passing points you get a 4.0 which is also the beginning of the 4.0’s interval. This means that even 4.3 would be sufficient-minus, I consider it as insufficient.

  4. I have a range from 4.0 to 0.7. The latter is not used so everything between points 1.0 and 0.7 belong to the grade 1.0. Every grade interval gets proportional amount of points, e.g., if a 0.3 interval is worth of 6 points, a 0.4 interval is worth of 8 points. Someone must reach the minimum points for a grade to achieve this grade.

You find the grading spreadsheet template I use here: grading_points-to-main-grade-mapping.ods

If you have any objections against your grade there is a dedicated exam review time beginning in the second or third week of the semester. I usually send you your exam beforehand that you have ample time to review it. If it was your last attempt, you can request an individual review immediately.

Plagiarism#

You may come from an academic culture where copying someone else’s work without attribution may be acceptable. In my teaching plagiarism is an unacceptable academic offense. Please familiarize yourself with correct citing & paraphrasing in your work (incl. projects and examinations).