Applied Data Science @ Columbia

Learning by doing

Jan 28, 2016

Spring 2016, I will be teaching Applied Data Science (W4249), a project-based learning (PBL) course. I came up with the idea for this course without being aware of this line of discussion in education innovation.

As I have been preparing for this course, I started looking for research on instructional practices using projects. I discovered some very nice discussion on PBL. PBL has been more widely discussed in K-12 education, especially in STEM curriculums. One of the main objective of PBL is to guide students in the process of turning into self-directed life learners. This is quite appealing as one can never acquire, within their time in school, all the knowledge required to solve all the problems.

As I was teaching the very first tutorial on dplyr using 3 examples I prepared quickly the day before the lecture, I realize that if I was doing lecture-style teaching, that would almost all they would learn about dplyr, which is very little. Maybe another couple of tricks when completing an assignment. Now, doing a project on a data set with too many variables and too many individuals, as a team they figure out how to explore the data set, select variables, filter out subgroups, etc etc. They would have learnt much more in two-weeks of time.