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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What educators can learn about effective teaching from a Harvard prof | eSchool News

[Editor’s note: This post by Alan November, written exclusively for eSchool Media, is part of a series of upcoming articles by this notable education thought leader. Check back soon for the next must-read post!]


"Here are three essential lessons in effective teaching from David Malan’s enormously popular CS50 course." summarizes eSchool News. 

Photo: eSchool News

Photo: David J. Malan
Harvard professor David Malan has managed to pull off a neat trick: His Computer Science 50 course is the most popular course at both Harvard and Yale. By examining his success, we can learn some important lessons about effective teaching.
CS50 assumes no prior knowledge or skill in computer programming, yet it’s extremely demanding. Despite its rigor, CS50 regularly attracts thousands of students each year. While some aspire to become software engineers, others enroll just to experience the course.

Why is Professor Malan’s course so popular, even with students who don’t plan a career in computer science—and even though it requires a lot of work? Here are three keys to Malan’s effective teaching that I think all schools everywhere should apply, from K-12 schools to colleges and universities.
  • Strengthen the social side of learning.
  • Teach students to self-assess.
  • Provide a public audience to inspire students to invent.
Imagine teaching a course with 800+ students at Harvard and another 400+ students at Yale with an extremely high level of rigor and creativity. The course is available for credit at either university, and anyone around the world can take a noncredit version at no cost through the open courseware platform edX.

My son, Dan, took the course. When he first signed up for CS50, it is fair to say he was not in the habit of choosing the most demanding courses on campus. But Dr. Malan’s unique learning culture and sense of responsibility placed on the students helped Dan to discover a passion for “learning how to learn” and thinking about design—skills he can apply to manage his learning in any situation, from other courses to his professional growth. Two years later, he is still on fire—and he will graduate in May to pursue a career in computer science.

I was so intrigued by the impact CS50 had on my son that I started to explore Malan’s keys to effective teaching that we can export to any educational setting. After many conversations with Professor Malan and Dan, I have identified at least three processes that we can apply across the curriculum at all grade levels.
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Source: eSchool News


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