The Peer Teaching Fellows program is a collaborative effort between Duke University, the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, and the University of Florida to develop a scalable effective teaching resource for introductory computer science courses: undergraduates employed as peer teaching fellows (PTFs).
Undergraduates are used widely in support of Computer Science (CS) departments’ teaching missions as teaching/learning assistants, section leaders, lab assistants, and tutors. Those undergraduates engaged in teaching have the opportunity to deeply engage with CS concepts and develop key communication and social competencies. As enrollments surge, undergraduates play a more significant role in the experience and outcomes for their peer students in theses courses. While faculty and graduate student instructional support does not necessarily increase with the number of students in our courses, the number of qualified undergraduate teaching assistants for introductory CS courses naturally scales with enrollment.
The goals of this project are to:
We believe that with proper recruitment and training based upon the novel research and tools developed in this project, Peer Teaching Fellows can (1) serve as a scalable effective teaching resource that improves student learning in introductory computer science courses and (2) positively impact the climate in those courses to improve retention among women and underrepresented minorities.
One of the tools that we have developed to support the use of PTFs is an office hour tracking application called My Digital Hand (MDH). We designed MDH to record:
By using MDH, instructors and institutions can gather data about the use of peer instructors that may be of use for resource allocation and management, understanding how students make use of peer teaching as a resource, and encouraging best practices by peer teachers. MDH is freely available for use by other institutions and more information can be found here: http://mydigitalhand.org.
Ascend is a plug-in to the popular integrated development environment Eclipse, which supports remote collaboration on Java projects. Through the Peer Teaching Fellows program, students connect to teaching fellows through Ascend to receive help on their projects and code from anywhere. Ascend also supports the collection of data on PTF-student collaboration, and enables us to develop empirically grounded best practices for successfully supporting our computer science learners through natural language dialogue.
The Peer Teaching Fellows Program was initially made possible by the generous support of Google and its CS Capacity Grant program.