The Connected Learner: Design Patterns for Transforming Computing and Informatics Education
The Connected Learner is a re-orientation of undergraduate computing education that focuses on connecting students to peers, the profession, and the community. Our vision is to create an active learning environment that transforms the student entering our undergraduate program from a person with an interest in computing to a person with an affinity identity (Gee, 2000) as a computing professional through these ongoing connections. Our theory of change for the Connected Learner is based on two foundational concepts: flipped classrooms and engagement theory. To achieve related goals of improving student retention and time to graduation, we will integrate the Connected Learner teaching strategies across our entire curriculum, with an early focus on introductory gateway courses. The College of Computing and Informatics at UNC Charlotteﾗcomprised of three departments with an undergraduate enrollment of 1,500 studentsﾗis situated within the context of a large research institution in an urban setting with a diverse student population. Within this unique context, we aim to build a sustainable practice of educational innovation across our entire undergraduate computing curriculum by increasing faculty awareness of teaching innovations, resources for pedagogical change, and support for Connected Learner teaching practices. We will implement change by building infrastructure supports to sustain learning practices across our college through faculty development initiatives (hiring, training, mentoring, and incentives) that will inform faculty about engagement pedagogies, motivate faculty to adopt these practices, and shift pedagogical attitudes. Additionally, we will leverage our business partners in the greater Charlotte region to bridge the connection between the classroom and the community for both our students and faculty. To accomplish our goals, we focus on the following key objectives: 1) connect knowledge and assessment to extend Bloomﾒs taxonomy into a Connected Learner taxonomy; 2) implement active learning design patterns across 90% of core undergraduate courses; 3) identify and support ﾓblack beltﾔ instructors; and 4) increase innovative research and practice in computer science education. In this first year of the project, we are collecting and analyzing both quantitative and qualitative data from students and faculty. This data provides a baseline of both student attitudes and performance as well as faculty attitudes and teaching practices in Year 1 to which we will be able to compare subsequent data in Years 2-5 of the project. This longitudinal structure allows us to measure bookended organizational changeﾗtop-down and bottom-upﾗin a complex higher education setting. We have also established a ﾓConnected Learner Communityﾔ group of core faculty who have adopted flipped classroom and student engagement practices in some of our undergraduate courses. This core group of faculty meets regularly to share teaching experiences, identify challenges and solutions, and discuss how to move the Connected Learner project forward in the College. Further, this core group of faculty will grow over time to become Connected Learner leaders and soldiers of change in the College. As we gain momentum with the project, we will create a Repository of Design Patterns to disseminate materials, resources, and research outcomes with our peers, colleagues, and partners in computing education.
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