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Giving Computer Science Students Freedom

Posted Jan 29 2013 12:00am

After my post about how I stopped grading , Eric Chown, who teaches computer science at Bowdoin, . In upper division courses, he wrote, “All that matters is student engagement. When students are engaged . . .  my job is to stay out of their way.” I asked him for details. His reply:

Independent Study: I run a lot of them. Many are in areas that I’m not an expert in. This started out of necessity – some of our students wanted to learn things that we simply do not have in our curriculum and if they were exceptional students I knew they’d be able to learn those things on their own. Over the years I’ve come to see that all any of our students need to succeed in an independent study is a high level of motivation. I make sure they have picked a useful topic and are sufficiently motivated and have a general plan. After that I turn them loose. I meet with them once a week to see where they are. I rarely give them explicit assignments. I’m almost never disappointed by what they learn and accomplish.

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