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The Pretty Good Model


Skills courses help students learn how to do problem-solving tasks, like writing programs, analyzing data, or writing technical documents. How do you make a pretty good skills course?

First, pick tasks students will learn to do. The course goal will be learning relevant schemas, procedures, and facts, and how to use them to solve problems. Learning to solve problems is harder than you think. Aim for fewer concepts, and more practice.

Classes are flipped, and self-paced. There are no lectures. Students read lessons outside of class. Class time is for helping students individually, for group work, and for cheering.

Lessons explain concepts in various ways. There's direct instruction: "Here's how you…" Worked examples show people doing tasks. Reflection questions deepen thinking by asking students to, for example, infer schemas from examples. Simulations show processes, or let students see the effects of decisions.

Students do many exercises. They get personal formative feedback on each one. Lessons and exercises are intertwined. You need a good work system to handle the grading load.

Instructors troubleshoot, explain, encourage, evaluate, and monitor students. They, or a grader, give exercise feedback. Rapport is a Big Deal.

The open source software Skilling helps you make and run pretty good skills courses.