This page describes how we teach Scala at ScalaBridge; our pedadgogy. The curriculum page covers what we teach.
Why Worry About Teaching?
Teaching is a skill that can be learned, and improving at this skill definitely makes a difference to how effective our lessons are. We all have experience of teaching to some extent, so our baseline level of skill is probably higher than the average person’s baseline programming ability, but that doesn’t mean the ceiling is low.
We want to improve the teaching at ScalaBridge London, so we have some specific teaching techniques we want you to use, along with some general tips. The techniques may not work, but at least if we are intentional in what we try we can make definite statements about our results and improve our techniques. So please try to use the techniques below.
Our sessions are run using a modified version of interteaching (also see here), with a bit of mastery learning thrown in. Here is how it works.
At the start of each session students decide, perhaps with a bit of help from mentors, which topic they are following for that session. Students may decide they want to stay on the same topic as last session, or move on to the next topic; progression through topics is entirely at the students’ control and there is no need to move at the same rate as other students.
After choosing topics the session runs as follows:
Students taking the same topic gather together with the mentors who are teaching that topic. When meeting online this will be in a “breakout room”.
The students working on the same topic break into smaller groups of 2 or 3 to work on the material for the topic, with regular feedback from the mentors.
The entire topic group reforms to discuss the material and in particular any issues that came up. Mentors clarify the issues that arose.
We like to end the session by having everyone come together to share what we achieved.
We now explain these steps in more detail.
Students should have a look at the curriculum to decide which topic they’ll be working on. If students have time and the inclination to do so, extra work outside of the meetings will speed progress but this is not required.
Mentors are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the material, but like the students we don’t have any expectations or requirements for work outside the meetings.
Group discussion takes place in small groups (usually 2 or 3). Ideally the groups are different each time so students have a chance to interact with many other students. In the groups the students work through the material. This should be a collaborative process with plenty of discussion. Mentors are actively engaged in these discussions. The mentors aim to not give the students answers but give them prompts so they can discover the answers themselves.
The discussion should take about one to one and half hours.
Group Discussion and Clarification
Once the discussion ends, all the students taking a topic in a session get back together. The mentors lead discussion through the material. Student groups will be selected to give answers, and any student who had issues with a question is encouraged to raise them at this point so the class can clarify and discuss. As well as reinforcing the lesson this part is an opportunity for students to share ideas with the wider group, and to build the community that we believe is important at ScalaBridge.
This should take the remaining time available.
Our main technique is interteaching. We don’t want to do formal assessments (I’m assuming most people have had more than enough in the school life), so we don’t do the aspects of interteaching that involve assessment. As we’re not working towards a final exam we can allow people to progress at their own pace, as in mastery learning. However we don’t have assessments that gate advancement; we leave this to the students to decide. As we have a low student to mentor ratio and fairly small classes we can make things a bit more interactive than in standard interteaching.
Our other main technique is the use of programming strategies to teaching programming. Pending a better description please see this draft paper
Tips for Mentors
Feedback is very important but don’t give students the answers. It is important that they struggle with their problems so that they can learn. Instead of giving them a solution to a problem give them prompts to find the solution themselves. For example, if they have a programming problem ask them what they think the expected results should be, prompt them to recall a strategy, or encourage them to write a smaller program that focuses on the particular issue they are facing.