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A Three-Level Approach for Teaching Programming to Undergraduate Engineering Students

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  1. A Three-Level Approach for Teaching Programming to Undergraduate Engineering Students AkashPooransingh Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering University of the West Indies St. Augustine

  2. Overview • Rationale • Problem • Possible Approaches • Mode of Delivery • Motivation • Proposed Three Level Approach • Conclusion

  3. Rationale • This paper targets students’ learning style and motivation toward programming in a unique manner • Part of the delivery mechanism for a first level undergraduate programming course at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the University of the West Indies • This paper focuses on the first of the two courses that introduces the students to the fundamentals of programming utilizing the C++ environment

  4. Learning Objectives for First Level Programming Course

  5. The Problem • Programming is fast becoming a fundamental input to all the related fields of electrical engineering. • Unfortunately there is an associated negative sigma and difficulty level associated with students’ motivation and ability to learning programming. • In fact many students would often many would choose options to minimize the risk of undertaking any programming (Jenkins 2002). • This is not a new problem. (Bonar and Soloway, 1983) stated that even the simplest level of programming may be difficult to learn.

  6. Possible Approaches • Tertiary level teaching follows a `chalk and talk’ method • Improvement on the traditional method of delivery for programming may focus on two aspects: • Mode of Delivery • Motivation

  7. Possible Approaches: Mode of Delivery • Online delivery of material (Landry, Payne and Koger 2008) • terms of students’ time constraints • participants’ physical location (distance education offerings) • and the ability to deliver additional forms of content that may not suit a physical classroom environment (such as group collaborative work) • Supplementary notes, tutorials, review questions, quizzes, audio and video provide examples of how additional material can be delivered for a single learning objective via mix mode of delivery (Adamchik and Gunawardena, 2003)

  8. Possible Approaches: Motivation • Out of classroom support (Stamouli, Doyle and Huggard, 2004) • Programming Support Center providing one-on-one assistance with programming difficulties • The major resource for this method was staff support.

  9. Proposed Three Level Approach • Phase One • Chalk and Talk+ (within an enabling environment together with online delivery of material), • Phase Two • Group Based Learning and Lab Based Preparation sessions • Phase Three • Oral Assessment and Remedial Intervention.

  10. Schedule of Delivery Illustrating the Three-Level Approach

  11. Phase One - Chalk and Talk+ • Traditional Chalk and Talk (projector slides + white board) • In class demonstration (building, debugging and execution of sample code) • Limited by laboratory space • Recommended by the CSE group that all DECE students utilize own laptops (on booklist) • Recommended by the CSE group that all classrooms for programming outfitted with electrical outlets and wireless internet connectivity

  12. Phase One - Chalk and Talk+ • Online delivery via the eLearning portal • Lecture, notes, supplemental material

  13. Phase One - Chalk and Talk+ • In house learning videos

  14. Phase Two - Group Based Learning and Lab Based Preparation • First method of assessment after first phase geared toward group learning. • Cognitive skills are developed in a peer based environment (Newman, Webb and Cochrane, 1995). • It is assumed in this context that students in these groups have different levels of learning abilities toward programming but are able to communicate effectively with each other to promote effective learning. • The students are given three weeks to interact and propose a solution for the assignment. • eLearning portal is utilized for the posting and submission of assignments.

  15. Phase Two - Group Based Learning and Lab Based Preparation • Lab-based sessions are delivered to all students to act as a preparation activity for the assignment

  16. Phase Three - Oral Assessment and Remedial Intervention • Oral assessment exercises are held in the computer lab and assessed on a group by group basis • Assessment is done on an individual basis • Students are allowed time to solve questions that are based on the learning objectives of the group assignment • Assistance is given to students who are ‘stuck’ with a partial deduction of marks • More help is given as desired • Ensures student develops competence before the end of the exam session

  17. Phase Three - Oral Assessment and Remedial Intervention • Students are given immediate feedback on performance • Students on a weaker threshold (attaining < 50%) are identified and encouraged to attend a Remedial Intervention session • Weaker students are paired for one-on-one interaction with instructors • Students would guide the instructors on what aspects of the learning objectives are not understood

  18. Conclusion • This paper presented a three level method to address students’ learning style and motivation for an introductory programming course • A mixed mode approach to the traditional chalk and talk method of teaching was presented that was followed by group based assignments with lab based preparation. • Assessment of learning objectives were conducted by oral examinations with direct intervention and remedial support provided to weaker students. • Follow up work would help identify effective learning styles and the value this approach provides in terms of students’ motivation (Yorke 2003).

  19. Reference Listing • Adamchik, V., & Gunawardena, A. (2003, April). A learning objects Approach to teaching programming. In Information Technology: Coding and Computing [Computers and Communications], 2003. Proceedings. ITCC 2003. International Conference on (pp. 96-99). IEEE. • Bonar, J., & Soloway, E. (1983, January). Uncovering principles of novice programming. In Proceedings of the 10th ACM SIGACT-SIGPLAN symposium on Principles of programming languages (pp. 10-13). ACM. • Jenkins, T. (2002, August). On the difficulty of learning to program. In Proceedings of the 3rd Annual Conference of the LTSN Centre for Information and Computer Sciences (Vol. 4, pp. 53-58). • Landry, B. J., Payne, D., & Koger, M. S. (2008). From'chalk and talk'to online offerings: keeping pace with technology in education. International Journal of Management in Education, 2(3), 300-317. • Newman, D. R., Webb, B., & Cochrane, C. (1995). A content analysis method to measure critical thinking in face-to-face and computer supported group learning. Interpersonal Computing and Technology, 3(2), 56-77. • Stamouli, I., Doyle, E., & Huggard, M. (2004, October). Establishing structured support for programming students. In Frontiers in Education, 2004. FIE 2004. 34th Annual (pp. F2G-5). IEEE. • Yorke, M. (2003). Formative assessment in higher education: Moves towards theory and the enhancement of pedagogic practice. Higher education, 45(4), 477-501.