Briana Bettin Selected for Deans’ Teaching Showcase

Briana Bettin and Cesar Chavez Academy students

After consulting with his leadership team, Dennis Livesay, dean of the College of Computing, has selected Briana Bettin, assistant professor in Computer Science and Cognitive and Learning Sciences, as this week’s Deans’ Teaching Showcase member.

Bettin will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

Livesay describes Bettin as “a dedicated teacher with amazing rapport with her students and excellent teaching evaluations.” Further, he indicates that her student evaluations have been consistently in the top 10%, which he finds impressive for a second-year instructor charged with teaching large sections of introductory programming courses.

Department of Computer Science Chair Linda Ott attributes Bettin’s success as a teacher to her enormous energy. In Ott’s words, Bettin “works hard to engage students through in-class activities. She really cares about the students and makes sure that they know it. And she makes learning fun by using amusing props such as little rubber ducks in her class. It turns out that these props also give the students something very tangible to help them remember the abstract concepts that we deal with in introductory programming courses.”

“Dr. Bri goes out of her way to make students feel welcome, included, and valued,” says one of Bettin’s students. “She sparks a perfect balance between showing students empathy and leniency while upholding the prestige of our institution and facilitating the excellence in education that MTU is known for.”

A graduate teaching assistant (GTA) supervised by Bettin echoes this focus on inclusion: “Dr. Bri is a fierce advocate for justice in the classroom; she ensures a high level of coordination between GTAs so students are graded with consistency and fairness.”

Bettin’s research augments her teaching. She examines how students use analogies to build mental models as they learn new concepts in a programming course, and has developed a tool to facilitate developing effective analogies for classroom use. Her work is influenced by her studies in both cognitive and learning sciences as well as cultural studies.

This past fall, Bettin created a synchronous online section of CS1121 Introduction to Programming I that was delivered to a cohort of concurrently enrolled high school students in metro Detroit. This course was offered with the assistance of the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation (DHDC), where the students physically meet for lectures and labs. In spite of some technical startup challenges and the distance, the response from students and DHDC has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, three of the students continued this spring into the next course in the sequence, and, in Livesay’s words, are ”doing amazing.”