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Toward a Pedagogy Centering on Computer Programming for Learners in South Africa: An Educational Design Research Approach. Jacqui Chetty Duan van der Westhuizen University of Johannesburg, South Africa Background .

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Toward a Pedagogy Centering on Computer Programming for Learners in South Africa: An Educational Design Research Approach

Jacqui ChettyDuan van der WesthuizenUniversity of Johannesburg, South

  • Computer programming is a subject/discipline that is difficult to learn and difficult to teach
  • Attrition rates are high
  • South African students experience similar problems / under prepared
  • One way of changing this is to look at pedagogical approaches
  • One of the best ways in changing students performance
  • This paper describes educational design principles that have been used to turn the poor results of a computer programming module around
  • Students are positively impacted by an alternate pedagogical approach
principles on which research is based
Principles on which research is based
  • Educational design-based research
    • Brown & Collins, Reeves & Herrington
    • Conducting research within a classroom environment
    • Adjusting aspects of the learning cyclically
  • Authentic learning
    • Bruner stated that there was a difference between learning about a domain such as computer programming and learning to be a computer programmer
    • While facts can be “taught” it only takes on meaning when students discover tools that form part of the domain to assist them
    • Actively participating assists this process
    • Real-world problems that students grapple with
    • Thinking about thinking
educational design based principles
Educational design-based principles
  • Establish an authentic learning context that reflects the way knowledge will be used in the real-world of computer programming
  • Provide authentic learning activities through the articulation of ideas, experimentation and engagement in complex environments; as well as situating cognition in the real-world context of computer programming
  • Support the development of socially constructed knowledge through collaboration and co-operative learning, as it would happen in computer programming work environments
  • Provide knowledge construction tools that encourage learners to be actively involved in the learning process so that they learn to “tinker”
  • Scaffold learning activities so that learners are able to learn “on the edge of what they already know”, much like a senior programmer will scaffold the learning of a junior programmer in a work environment
  • Encourage reflective thinking by supporting the metacognitive process related to learners understanding of what was learnt, along with the daily management thereof, similar to debriefing activities that are found in the workplace
  • Support assessment practices that espouse authentic learning and include real-world examples, which are consistent with learning objectives
  • Extend the learning experience by introducing additional cognitive tools, which can further support learners’ learning
impact analysis preliminary findings
Impact analysis & preliminary findings
  • Work in progress as design-based research occurs cyclically (PhD thesis)
  • Baseline skill set of students entering the university from 2012 to 2014
    • On the decline
    • 2012 average
      • 48%
    • 2013 average
      • 45%
    • 2014 average
      • 39%
  • Actual computer programming module results year-on-year from 2010 to 2014
    • 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
    • 41% 45% 53% 55% 60%
  • Introduction of educational design principles as a pedagogical approach for assisting first year students with computer programming modules
  • The preliminary findings are satisfactory year-on-year
  • A module that has progressed from being the module with the poorest results to the module with the strongest results in spite of student capabilities being poorer
  • Another cycle of implementation will occur in the 2nd half of 2014
establish an authentic learning environment
Establish an authentic learning environment
  • Herrington expressed that it was important for students to mimic the way knowledge is constructed and used in the real world
  • Students should be exposed to the idea of what it feels like “to be” a programmer
  • What did I do to achieve this?
    • Re-arranged the classroom to represent a real-world “working as a computer programmer” environment
    • Desks were re-arranged to represent “round tables”
    • Students were allowed to sit in groups of 6
    • This setting encouraged collaboration, discussion of problems, development of solutions jointly, learning from one another
    • Real-world tasks were given to students where they solved such problems in a real-world environment
    • Learning to be computer programmers
plan authentic learning activities that include real world examples
Plan authentic learning activities that include real-world examples
  • Representing a problem in such a way that it has real-world relevance, is ill-defined, and needs to be completed over a period of time
  • The problem is messy, students must “grapple” with it, research is required to solve
  • What did I do to achieve this?
    • Learners were given problems that involved research, planning, negotiating with stakeholders, working in a team, managing the building and testing of the solution, and time management
social constructivism v ygotsky
Social constructivism (Vygotsky)
  • Constructing knowledge in a social or collaborative manner
  • “I learn what I believe as I hear myself speak”
  • What did I do to achieve this?
    • Learning in collaborative groups
    • Extending the authentic learning environment to accommodate active, learner-centred collaborative learning
    • The idea of “grappling” and “tinkering” with problems to formulate multiple solutions, discuss and choose a “correct” solution
    • Puzzles and games collaboratively to improve problem solving
    • Pair learning
learn to tinker learn to problem solve learn to construct programming solutions
Learn to “tinker”, learn to problem solve, learn to construct programming solutions
  • Domain-based knowledge transferred by educators is one of the LEAST important aspects of learning
  • Actively engaging with learners provides opportunity to further construct knowledge
  • The idea of exposing students to authentic learning tasks encourages this
  • Students must grapple, tinker and construct solutions through solving problems, real-world ones
  • What did I do to achieve this?
    • Include construction kits, such as problem solving puzzles/games, tinkering programming environment, such as Scratch or Tynker, Lego MindStorms
    • Include tools to assist with problem solving to produce pseudo code algorithms, such as IPO charts, flowcharting, the idea of the notional machine
learning on the edge of what the student knows
Learning on the edge of what the student knows
  • The zone of proximal development (ZPD)
  • I am at X and I need to get to Y – how do I bridge the gap? A knowledge other, scaffolding
  • What did I do to achieve this?
    • Identifying learners baseline knowledge before starting the module and working from there
    • Any new learning occurs on the edge of what the student knows
    • Threshold concept
    • Robins learning edge momentum effect(LEM)
do i think i know or do i know that i know
Do I “think” I know or do I “know” that I know???
  • Thinking about thinking or meta-cognition
  • Entails higher order thinking skills
  • Daily management of meta-cognition as well as planning thereof
    • What did I do to achieve this?
      • Student awareness by asking them to think about what they have just learnt, think about their assessment result
      • Metacognition tools
doing assessments the authentic learning way
Doing assessments the authentic learning way
  • Authentic assessment, where students assessments are aligned with the manner in which they are taught
  • Allowing students to assess their “finished products” and “polish” them up
  • What did I do to achieve this?
    • Weekly assessments were done in alignment with learning
    • Assessment overview after test results were allocated to students – very NB
    • “practice” for larger assignments / tests / upcoming exams
tools to further support student learning
Tools to further support student learning
  • Many students in South Africa are under-prepared for university education
  • Most universities support first year students in many different ways
  • What did I do to achieve this?
    • Tutoring system
    • Smaller classrooms
    • Collaborative learning
    • Introduce educational design principles that are tried and tested
    • Academic development program for under-achieving students