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The Principles of How We Teach

A core principle of our research is joining theory with practice.

  • First of all, we match any learning of concepts with their immediate application in homework or project work. Theory and applying theory meet within a week the longest.
  • We prefer semester-long projects over individual homework, because this way, learning builds on learning within a comprehensive whole rather than individual and isolated exercises.
  • Project ideas in most cases are acquired from industry, which provides a broader and deeper perspective than a single professor can provide. Industry also provides the domain expert then.
  • Projects are performed in teams, because other people aid individual learning and make the whole experience not only more realistic, but also more effective, and often, more enjoyable.
  • Our industry partner sponsor such projects, putting their money where their mouth is, ensuring the project is valuable and realistic. The funding serves to help educate my team.

Another principle is to have an efficient learning cycle.

  • Students prepare for class by themselves by watching a lecture video or reading materials to be discussed. Students need to actively prepare for class, and class consists of discussing these learnings.
  • In a few cases, there is no semester long project, only homework. Even then, class and homework is structured in such a way that it builds on each other, requiring students to work at a steady pace.
  • While we also run exercise sessions to discuss homework, most of our weekly exercise sessions take more of a form of my teaching assistants and me coaching our students in what they should learn.
  • Additional tool support, like taking the weekly pulse on teamwork (in which students anonymously communicate their satisfaction) let us track a team’s situation and react accordingly.

A final principle is to ensure grading fairness.

  • We continuously observe and measure every week rather than rely on one-shot grading like a single oral or written exam. Learning, like life, is a marathon, not a sprint or a one-day performance.
  • We also triangulate grades using multiple measures. We use weekly class quizzes, homework assessment, class participation, as well as intermediate and final deliverables. Specifics vary by course.

None of these practices and principles fell from the heavens. They all evolved and were adopted over time, as we learned what works and what doesn’t. Almost all our materials are open source and open content and freely available to other lecturers.

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