Experience Report: Thinkathon -- Countering an "I Got It Working" Mentality with Pencil-and-Paper Exercises

Cutts, Q. , Barr, M. , Bikanga Ada, M. , Donaldson, P. , Draper, S. , Parkinson, J. , Singer, J. and Sundin, L. (2019) Experience Report: Thinkathon -- Countering an "I Got It Working" Mentality with Pencil-and-Paper Exercises. In: 2019 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education (ITiCSE '19), Aberdeen, UK, 12-17 Jul 2019, pp. 203-209. ISBN 9781450368957 (doi:10.1145/3304221.3319785)

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Abstract

Goal-directed problem-solving labs can lead a student to believe that the most important achievement in a first programming course is to get programs working. This is counter to research indicating that code comprehension is an important developmental step for novice programmers. We observed this in our own CS-0 introductory programming course, and furthermore, that students weren't making the connection between code comprehension in labs and a final examination that required solutions to pencil-and-paper comprehension and writing exercises, where sound understanding of programming concepts is essential. Realising these deficiencies late in our course, we put on three 3-hour optional revision evenings just days before the exam. Based on a mastery learning philosophy, students were expected to work through a bank of around 200 pencil-and-paper exercises. By comparison with a machine-based hackathon, we called this a Thinkathon. Students completed a pre and post questionnaire about their experience of the Thinkathon. While we find that Thinkathon attendance positively influences final grades, we believe our reflection on the overall experience is of greater value. We report that: respected methods for developing code comprehension may not be enough on their own; novices must exercise their developing skills away from machines; and there are social learning outcomes in programming courses, currently implicit, that we should make explicit.

Item Type:Conference Proceedings
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cutts, Professor Quintin and Parkinson, Mr Jack and Draper, Dr Steve and Sundin, Ms Lovisa and Barr, Dr Matthew and Bikanga Ada, Dr Mireilla and Singer, Dr Jeremy and Donaldson, Mr Peter
Authors: Cutts, Q., Barr, M., Bikanga Ada, M., Donaldson, P., Draper, S., Parkinson, J., Singer, J., and Sundin, L.
Subjects:L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Computing Science
College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Research Group:Centre for Computing Science Education
ISBN:9781450368957
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 Association for Computing Machinery
First Published:First published in Proceedings of the 2019 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education (ITiCSE '19): 203-209
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy
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