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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

Stephen Edwards


The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Stephen Edwards, associate professor of Computer Science, for undertaking new and innovative pedagogical approaches in the classroom, employing active-learning and problem-based learning strategies, transforming traditional lecture courses with a more interactive teaching style driven by live demonstrations and student discussion, and changing the model for how students are assessed and graded in programming courses.

Dr. Edwards' most well-known innovation is requiring students to self-check their own computer programming work (i.e., test their own software), and then give them credit based on how well they self-check. This empowers students by placing them in control of part of their own assessment, and also forces them to double-check their own understanding of what they have accomplished. To help with this task he designed Web-CAT, the Web-based Center for Automated Testing. Web-CAT is a system for automatically grading computer programming assignments that provides students with rapid, directed feedback about the quality of their work and how well they have tested it, pointing to specific areas that need to be checked more thoroughly. He has conducted empirical research on the impact of this strategy in the classroom, showing that students across all skill levels improve the quality of their work when they are assessed on the quality of their self-checking, reducing program bugs by an average of 28%. These results have made Web-CAT the most widely used open-source automated program grading tool in the world, with about 10 thousand users at over 70 institutions worldwide.

One student this spring said of Dr. Edwards' class, "I've always enjoyed your style of lecture where you speak very clearly, are comfortable repeating/re-explaining concepts that are difficult, and make students feel more relaxed in the classroom. While it sounds cheesy, I appreciate professors that put effort into the classes that they teach." Cal Ribbens, the associate head for undergraduate studies in the Department of Computer Science, described Dr. Edwards as "easily one of the most innovative and energetic faculty members I have known in my 25 years at Virginia Tech."

As a result of Dr. Edwards' innovative teaching practices, he has won the W.S. "Pete" White Innovation in Engineering Education Award, the XCaliber Award, and the Premier Award. Most recently, he was named the W.S. "Pete" White Chair for Innovation in Engineering Education.


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