Michael Clancy interview: Selected quotes

Michael Clancy; Photo: Peg Skorpinski

On a separate page: Overview page for this interview

Summer fun with mobs of kids

Oh, there were thirty-two kids in where we lived. Summer was just great, because the kids would swarm and be out of their parents’ hair. You look at it in comparison to what we have now with everything a kid does is regimented and nobody gets to go out and explore. It’s just so sad that that’s happened. We were … there was a woods near our house, and we’d explore the woods. We’d play baseball in the summer and we played football in the fall and we played basketball in the spring and we’d play board games in the winter. It was just … having these mobs of kids was a really neat thing, I think.

Quotes from interview with Michael Clancy
  • Transcript lines: 203-209
  • Audio clip [about 58 seconds] located at about 15:08 in full audio of interview

Research collaboration enhances view of teaching

At any rate, I’d try these things, kind of seat of the pants, and I had no really good way of evaluating what went wrong if it didn’t work or what went right if it did. And what Marcia was able to help me with was she would say, “Oh yeah, you’re using technique XYZ and here is how they do it in math and here is how they do it in physics.” What that did for me was to raise the level of abstraction in how I thought about teaching. In such a way that I could go to physics or chemistry or math and see what innovations they were doing involving teaching and see how they could be adapted to work in computer science. So there was that. Just the view of what teaching is all about and how innovations can be shared.

Quotes from interview with Michael Clancy
  • Transcript lines: 668-674
  • Audio clip [about 1 minute 11 seconds] located at about 66:56 in full audio of interview

Satisfaction with research successes

Once we had these prospective misconceptions, we could then give them exercises that would target those misconceptions and make the students become aware of the reality versus the error of their ways. It worked. I remember thinking, “Gosh, one of my colleagues … my colleagues in the department that are doing research, when they come up with some success in their research, they don’t have anybody to … who can they brag to among their colleagues?” Whereas here, there were 200 people in this class; they once were lost and now they’re found. It just made me feel so … satisfied compared to my research faculty colleagues. That here was … success in my area was like immediate, so that was really neat.

Quotes from interview with Michael Clancy
  • Transcript lines: 819-826
  • Audio clip [about 1 minute 45 seconds] located at about 87:42 in full audio of interview

Courses for teaching assistants

I’m thinking most of my mentorship went toward teaching assistants in Berkeley CS. We … I invented the two courses they have that … The first is, these days now, required of every first-time TA in the department. And the second one is a Design a Course course, where students pick a course they want to design and then the discussion sections that are based on that have the participants design homework, exercises. Design a case study. Design exam problems. Pick a book. Pick a grading policy. Those kinds of things. That course has provided, I think, over the years a nice opportunity for mentorship. Participants in the course really get a big dose of the kinds of things I think are good and not so good.

Quotes from interview with Michael Clancy
  • Transcript lines: 835-843
  • Audio clip [about 1 minute 38 seconds] located at about 90:38 in full audio of interview

Appreciation for faculty

Another thing I tell TAs for instance is … it’s my impression that faculty members don’t get a lot of overt appreciation. So I look back at my own career and say, “When did they praise me?” One was they gave me tenure, so there was that. Second, they outbid Stanford for me. The third, when I was promoted to Senior Lecturer. And the fourth was when I retired.

Quotes from interview with Michael Clancy
  • Transcript lines: 947-951
  • Audio clip [about 47 seconds] located at about 102:41 in full audio of interview

A lab-centric format

[O]ur underlying assumption is that students don’t learn a whole lot from lectures and so we think that it’s sort of conventional wisdom that students learn by doing. So, a good place for encouraging this learning by doing is in a lab, where ideally you can … students … it’s easier to get help, and to get stuff explained, and so forth. And so in our lab-centric format, we’ve thrown out … well, the traditional format, at Berkeley, at least, is three hours of lecture and two hours of lab and one hour of discussion section. And we changed that to be one hour of lecture and six hours of lab. And then the lab would consist of a bunch of lab activities. It’s administered online, so it’s … in some ways it shares characteristics with a MOOC. What our organization is involved, I think, is referred more in a sort of blended context.

Quotes from interview with Michael Clancy
  • Transcript lines: 1052-1064
  • Audio clip [about 1 minute 47 seconds] located at about 112:38 in full audio of interview

Sometimes groups need group therapy

… a long time ago, we had students working together, figuring … it was sort of a greedy thing. If students are working in pairs, then that’s half the things you have to grade. And the problem was sometimes groups need group therapy. And we as computer scientists are — most of us are really not equipped to provide that, as our education was in computer science, not psychotherapy. And so at some point the hotshot students got fed up with partners that were parasites, basically. They called them Klingons, because they’d just cling-on.

Quotes from interview with Michael Clancy
  • Transcript lines: 1071-1077
  • Audio clip [about 1 minute 14 seconds] located at about 115:15 in full audio of interview