sional focus on teaching computer science at the undergraduate level and a
passion for excellence in CS education.
At the University of British Columbia (UBC), for example, many CS faculty are excellent teachers but only
TOF are hired and promoted primarily
as educators. A TOF member teaches
twice as many courses as a non-TOF
member and a disproportionate share
of the undergraduate students. Over
the last three years, nine TOF taught
47% of the undergraduate enrollment
while 42 non-TOF taught 42% (and
other temporary instructors taught
11%). How well do the TOF teach?
UBC’s campuswide teaching award is
a plausible, succinct measure of teaching excellence, awarded on a broad
basis including peer and student observations, student evaluations, and a
teaching portfolio. Five of the 10 current TOF and three of the 49 current
non-TOF have received the award.
Judicious use of TOF furthers the
university’s teaching mission by enabling some specialization. A department can favor assignment of TOF to
courses—often those with large and
academically diverse student populations—that demand particular effort
and attention from experienced, committed faculty with a strong focus on
teaching. Likewise, a department can
favor assignment of research-oriented
faculty to courses—likely advanced—
in which their research naturally connects to instruction. (In the UBC example mentioned previously, 65% of the
undergraduate courses taught by non-TOF were upper-division electives.)
A common criticism of such specialization is that all good university teaching requires active research. This is an
attractive idea for research universities
balancing research and teaching missions and their stakeholders. However, research on university teachers has
established that active research is not a
predictor of effective teaching.
1 On the
other hand, TOF do indirectly support
the university’s research mission by allowing non-TOF to take a lighter teaching load with a tighter connection to
…and something else
TOF have impact outside of the classroom as well. TOF jobs typically involve
teaching and something else that affects
tof have a primary
at the undergraduate
level and a passion
in cs education.
undergraduate education. For example, the University of California (UC),
Berkeley hired its first TOF member in
CS not just to teach but also to radically
restructure the introductory CS curriculum. Indeed, all of the authors engage
in professional activity beyond teaching, even where our departments impose no official requirement to do so.
We briefly describe some key types
of “something else” contributions TOF
make here. The majority of our institutions have TOF engaged in most of the
contribution types we list, but for brevity and concreteness we illustrate each
type with a few specific examples.
Curriculum Development. Introductory curriculum development is a common task for TOF. As with the Berkeley example earlier, UC Santa Barbara
(UCSB) TOF contributed substantially
to a lower-division curriculum redesign,
integrating recent research in computer
science pedagogy such as pair programming and foreshadowing of advanced
research concepts to improve retention.
At Princeton, TOF co-developed and
teach an interdisciplinary introduction
to CS taken by almost half of Princeton
undergraduates. Such a large service
course would not be possible without
the focused support of TOF.
TOF often contribute in specialized
areas as well. At UC Irvine, a TOF member developed and teaches a year-long
capstone project course, recruiting
project clients from industry. Another
TOF member developed and taught a
computer game development course
and later co-designed a new “
Computer Game Science” major.
Undergraduate Advising. TOF’s ex-
tensive contact with undergraduates
makes them natural mentors for the
students. UCSB’s two TOF piloted the
faculty undergraduate advising program
there, developed an undergraduate re-
search course, provided undergraduate
research opportunities, and brought un-
dergraduates onto department commit-
tees. At UBC, TOF created and maintain
a second degree program and a broad
array of popular combined majors.