Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Active learning modules for grad algorithms ?

Active learning (the pedagogy, not the area of machine learning) is all the rage in undergraduate education. My understanding of it (limited, btw) is that it involves much more active engagement with the students, and much less lecturing. This meshes nicely with new trends in teaching, since so much information is available on the web, and so the traditional 'stand at blackboard and scribble for an hour' model seems a little out of date.

My question here is: has anyone tried active engagement modules for topics in graduate algorithms ?  (which means topics like randomization, network flows, and a fast review of basic algorithmic primitives, with an emphasis on proof techniques). I've experimented with group activities for NP-hardness reductions (team students up in groups and have them pick problems out of a hat to prove NP-hard) with mixed results.

My class size is in the 40s-50s range, and has a mix of beginning grads and advanced undergrads, divided up into people taking it as a requirement, people taking it out of curiosity and those taking it to help ace their google/m$ interviews (no I'm not making this up - I did a poll)

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