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Reckinger receives UIC Teaching Recognition Program Award

Shanon Reckinger

Clinical Associate Professor Shanon Reckinger received a 2023-2024 Teaching Recognition Program Award (TRP) from UIC. Offered through the Office of the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, the TRP award is available to faculty who have documented their teaching excellence over the past three academic years. The award criteria include the candidate’s written statement, student feedback, peer reviews, course materials, student mentoring , curriculum development, and implementation of impactful and innovative teaching approaches.

Reckinger has been teaching computer science at UIC since 2018. Throughout her career, she has taught 17 different courses, most of which she designed or developed herself.

A prolific teacher, Reckinger has taught approximately 5,000 students, averaging around 800 per year. For the Fall 2022 semester, she taught CS 111, Program Design I, to 450 students and managed a team of 22 teaching assistants. Reckinger is chair of the teaching track faculty search committee and said hiring seven new teaching faculty this fall is easing the course load at UIC. But the rapid growth in the major of computer science has put strains on academic programs everywhere.

“I realized how important the problem was because everyone is getting their CS education at scale now,” Reckinger said. “I don’t want it to become something where it’s, ‘Okay, come in and learn how to code, then take a test and show us what you can do.’ We use collaborative group work, pair programming, and peer learning in class.”

Reckinger’s teaching philosophy includes creating an inclusive environment for her students. She chooses course assistants and teaching assistants who are not only technically competent, but who are open-minded and compatible to the classroom environment she creates. She is active in diversity and equity in computer science and is co-PI on one of the college’s largest grants, which started Break Through Tech Chicago. The UIC Office of Diversity and Inclusion selected Reckinger as an Inclusive Classroom Fellow and is releasing a faculty training module soon.

Reckinger enforces a growth mindset, reminding students that the material can be challenging, and helping her students build skills and have confidence that they can accomplish difficult tasks. She is mindful that students may not have a programming background and ensures the introductory CS course does not require previous experience to succeed. She also has clear expectations and flexible policies to allow students to control their own journey.

“UIC students are commuters, parents, are taking care of family, are working full time, and more,” Reckinger said. “My policies are set to allow all students the flexibility they need without having to ask for exception.”

The most frequent student feedback about Reckinger’s teaching is how well structured and organized her courses are. She returns feedback on assignments and grades within a week, prepares students for technical interviews, creates opportunities for students to build their resumes, and encourages students to create LinkedIn pages and connect with one another, creating an instant network.

In the Spring 2023 CS 111 course, students create an open-ended graphics project, choosing from three Chicago company-designed prompts. Projects selected for a showcase are shared with the companies, providing additional exposure.

Reckinger utilizes a flipped classroom, where students watch videos prior to class time (she’s recorded over 200 thus far), so that the classroom is for group work, live coding, and interactive iClicker discussions. She pioneered the use of oral examinations at scale in the department.

Reckinger remains committed to tackling the problems of teaching at scale and finding ways for faculty to provide meaningful instruction and interactions to large classrooms, as this has become the norm in introductory computer science classes at universities across the county. She is also working to to personalize the learning process and maintain a diverse group of students who pursue a degree in computer science.

“Engineers and technologists are building stuff for everyone. So, the team that’s doing that building needs to be representative of the group that they’re building for to get the best product,” Reckinger said. “If you don’t have a woman on the team and you’re building a product that women are going to use, it’s doesn’t matter how much interviewing you do, how much talking to customers you do, It’s not going to be as good of a product. And that’s true for any representation that you have on the team.”

Reckinger was one of 16 TRP awardees, out of over 60 applications. She and fellow computer science faculty member Luis Gabriel Ganchinho de Pina were the recipients from the College of Engineering.