|Gove Nathaniel Allen, Ph.D.||Assistant Professor of Information Systems, Brigham Young University|
The vast majority of the information systems discipline cannot be learned by lecture and rote memorization. Learning is an active process. In my classroom students are primed in a subject; however, most learning will happen in the completion of homework assignments and class projects. I believe that all assignments should be classified in to two categories: sense making and problem solving. In sense-making assignments students are presented with a task in an unfamiliar domain where the solution is not clearly defined--learning happens as they access various resources to arrive at an optimal (or at least satisfactory) solution. For example, much of the subject of systems analysis and design lends itself to sense-making processes for effective learning. In problem-solving assignments, students are presented a task in which the solution is clearly defined but the path to the solution is unclear--learning happens as they apply tools they have learned to compose a solution. For example, most of the course material of programming languages lends itself to problem-solving processes for effective learning. While sense-making exercises can often be facilitated through cooperation among individuals in a group setting, problem-solving exercises are rarely facilitated through group interaction. I believe that most of the dissatisfaction that students feel with group work arises as groups attempt problem-solving tasks. Care should be taken to assure that group work is only assigned because it will facilitate learning. Group assignments should never be used as a means to reduce workload for students or teachers.
I believe that time spent in the classroom should be both informative and fun. I see humor a major tool for classroom instruction. While a professor's role is not that of a stand-up comedian, he or she should never be recognized as a cure for insomnia. Students should not only look forward to attending class, but they should expect to participate as well. For this reason I have a personal goal to know each student's name by the end of the second class period. This helps me to interact with students and I believe that it sends the message that I am concerned about them as individuals.
Learning cannot happen without feedback. The quicker students get feedback the better. For this reason, I use the Internet to post solutions to most homework assignments and tests when they are due. This leaves no room for late assignments. Neither is there any room for cheating in a course I teach. Students who cheat in my class can expect to feel the full impact the university's academic dishonesty policy.