AbstractsComputer Science

Decoding Feedback: Improving feedback practices for students in introductory programming courses

by Claudia Ott

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: Feedback; Computer Science Education; CS1; Introductory Programming Courses; Infographic
Record ID: 1306559
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/5483


High failure rates in introductory programming courses testify that learning to program is challenging for many students. This problem is widely acknowledged in the field of com- puter science education research. In higher education, quality feedback from teachers is regarded as one of the main contributors to improve student learning. Feedback to support students’ development into self-regulated learners, who set their own goals, self-monitor their actual performance according to these goals and adjust learning strategies if neces- sary, is seen as an especially important aspect of contemporary feedback practice. For this research project the notion of feedback, as described within the higher education literature, was reviewed and provides a theoretical basis to address the question of how to support first year programming students. A framework to consider effective feedback was developed and used to assess feedback practice in the context of introductory program- ming courses. Various opportunities to integrate research from computer science educa- tion to support feedback processes were revealed. A gap in the research became apparent when searching for ways to support students’ self-regulated learning and we realised that only those students who are informed about course demands and the impact of certain study behaviours on their final achievement are in a position to self-regulate their learning on an informed basis. As a next step we analysed the predictive value of naturally occurring course data for stu- dents’ final performance at different stages in our course. All data sets, drawn from the records of 387 students enrolled in 2011 and 2012, correlated significantly with students’ final examination results and we were able to define risk factors as well as performance indicators. Based on those findings an infographic for students was developed communi- cating course characteristics and projected final performance for different achievement levels at various stages of the course. To explore the impact of feedback on self-regulation level as well as to learn about students’ attitudes towards diagnostic course data in general, a scoping study was conducted in 2013. Over 200 students were supplied with the infographic. The results from the study suggest that students valued the information, but, despite high engagement with the information, students’ study behaviour and learning outcome remained rather unaffected for the aspects investigated. Given these multi-layered results, we suggest further exploration on the pro- vision of feedback based on diagnostic course data – a vital step towards more transparency for students to foster their active role in the learning process.