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How Do You Save Time and Teach Programming More Effectively

9 Feb, 2022

You save time and teach programming more effectively by coding in real-time. You can also give assignments and use automatic grading. Lastly, provide effective feedback and support to improve student performance.

Programming is challenging, and it is easy for students to get lost in the different topics. It is essential to develop creative and practical ways to teach programming. 

That’s the goal of this article!

It will discuss tips on how to save time and teach programming effectively. 

Let’s dive in!

  1. Learn by doing, code in real-time
  2. Assignments with manual and automatic grading
  3. Provide feedback and support
  4. Save time and teach programming effectively with Alemira!

1. Learn by doing, code in real-time

Coding in real-time involves live programming while verbalizing the process. As your students watch, ensure you talk about the mental process of identifying the problems. Additionally, troubleshoot errors, pause to ask questions, and let students predict the code.

Coding in real-time is more effective than using slides while teaching programming. Real-time coding helps students identify and solve a problem step by step. Learners also see that instructors can make mistakes boosting confidence in their abilities. 

Let’s look at other benefits of real-time coding

  • You can follow your learners’ interests and answer any questions about the code.
  • Students learn to solve problems through real-life examples hence enhancing knowledge transfer.
  • A 2021 study by the Human-Computer Interaction Institute showed that learning is more effective when active. Engaging students through interactive activities such as real-time coding improves academic performance compared to normal lectures. It allows students to express thoughts and get feedback through interaction.

Another 2014 study showed that active learning increases student performance in engineering, science and mathematics. The results indicated that lecturing increases failure rates while active learning improves examination performance.

How to accomplish real-time coding

Coding in real-time includes writing a computer program in front of your students. The goal is to show the programming process, not reveal a perfect solution.

Here are the steps to implement real-time coding:

  1. Gather crucial technology to support real-time programming: Identify tools that allow for collaborative editing and communication via chat or video especially for remote teaching
  2. Choose a coding problem to solve: Select a programming exercise and language depending on your students’ skill level and age. The language should be challenging to keep the students alert but still be familiar to them.
  3. Describe real-time coding: Your learner must understand the meaning of real-time coding. Describe what you will demonstrate and their input in making predictions.
  4. Execute real-time coding: There are different ways to execute real-time coding. The following process is one way. 

Here are the steps:

  • Code a simple part of the program, such as asking for user input. Run the program as you describe the mental process of what is happening to ensure your students follow.
  • Edit the program for a different result. You can add functionality or make it complex to show different outcomes.
  • Invite the student to predict an outcome before rerunning the program. Let them discuss in pairs to liven up the classroom.
  • Run the code while observing the outcome. If the result is not as expected, remark on the surprising development and describe any error. Help students understand how to isolate, test, and rectify the mistake.
  • Pass off the program to students for them to complete in pairs. You don’t need to complete the program. Let students complete the code to enhance understanding.

You can record the live coding sessions so that students can revisit the content.

2. Assignments with manual and automatic grading

A mixture of manual and automatic grading tools allow you to provide personalized feedback based on deeper insights. You can auto-grade the codes which provides you with instant feedback and saves time or manually grade them with in-line comments and use a rubric to evaluate your students’ work.

Manual grading

Manual grading is great for open-ended questions. You can create queries that need an essay or text type answer and manually grade them from your dashboard.  

Automatic grading

Automatic grading is where a system automatically grades assignments in a digital learning environment. Students can access and use the automated grading system to verify their program assignments’ accuracy. The system automatically grades a correct solution.

Automatic grading platforms allow you to set the language, libraries, compilers or other dependencies you want. 

You create an autograder script and other supporting codes, and then the platform will accept student submissions and run your automatic grader at scale. The platform will then distribute the results to the learners and you. 

Automatic grading offers the following benefits:

  • Provides instant feedback after students submit their assignments. Instant feedback quickens the learning process and lets you focus on the areas they need to improve on instead of marking assignments. It improves performance while saving time.
  • Frees up time for the professor to give individualized attention to each student. 
  • Eliminates biases: The automatic grading system is objective which limits bias. Human graders can have biases since some are tough graders while others are lenient in marking. The grading system also avoids negative feedback and makes the results less personal. 

How to assess using manual and automated grading and feedback 

The following strategies will help you create practical automated feedback activities:

  • Write codes and feedback that match with your expected learning outcomes
  • Set up codes or programming assignments that challenge learners. 
  • Set up different questions from each topic to offer variety and make it difficult to copy
  • Write clear and concise questions that focus on critical thinking
  • Set up your grading system in a Learning Management System that can collect all data as the students do the assessments. The data can give you insights into how to improve your course and offer personalized feedback.

3. Provide feedback and support

Effective feedback is a continuous process of communication, assessment, and adjustment. Providing praise or criticism is not feedback. You need to respond and support your students to improve student performance.

Giving grades, advice, value judgments, assessment, evaluation, or praise is vague and doesn’t show the student where to improve. Professors can give feedback through tools where students share and collaborate on projects. 

Collaborative workspaces allow learners to give and take feedback, brainstorm or annotate. You can also share research materials, private notes and notes on their thinking to boost productivity and critical thinking.

Effective feedback should have the following characteristics

  • Goal-referenced: Learners should be working towards a specific goal that they understand. Feedback will always be about the destination and offer insight into whether the student is headed there.
  • Transparent: Effective feedback is clear and specific on how to improve towards a goal.
  • Actionable: Feedback has steps and information for students to act upon and reach a goal or change results. Vague sentences such as ‘you need to improve’ don’t inform the student what to do.
  • User-friendly: Feedback for students should be concise and carefully crafted for easy understanding. Additionally, make it accessible to every student in your course.
  • Timely: Delayed feedback is not adequate. Ensure to give immediate feedback with the help of automated grading systems while thoughts are still fresh in students’ minds.
  • Continuous: Maintaining consistent feedback improves performance by informing students how to change.
  • Focused: Effective feedback doesn’t change one’s personality but focuses on changing behaviour.

How to Support Learners While Teaching Programming

Two ways to help your learners are using peer instruction and pair programming. Supporting learners through the course ensures that they absorb content effectively. 

Use peer instruction

Peer instruction is an excellent form of teaching many students. It is effective for saving time and reaching every student. 

One way to conduct peer instruction in the following way:

  • Give a brief introduction to a topic.
  • Provide students with a multiple-choice question that shows misconceptions rather than facts. The question should be well-crafted. 
  • Learners should choose the answer individually. The next step is to vote on the answer to view which misconceptions are popular. 
  • Give the students a few minutes to discuss the answers in their chat groups, then vote again. 
  • If learners have the correct answer, move on with the topic. However, if there are widespread misconceptions after a group discussion, discuss them with the class.

Peer instruction provides direct mentorship in a scalable method. Letting students discuss the question will help them understand and clarify their thoughts. 

The second voting shows you need to discuss the misconceptions or move on with the topic.

A 2020 study examined why peer instruction benefits student learning by analyzing student answers and confidence before and after discussion. 

The study found the following:

  • Increased accuracy with small to medium-sized effects.
  • Challenging questions benefit from peer instructions since correctness levels improve after discussion.
  • Most students switch answers from incorrect to correct hence improving the accuracy after the discussion.

Use collaborative programming services

Collaborative programming services allows you to invite students into your Integrated Environment Development (IDE) projects. The services enable you to work together with your learners in real-time. 

Collaborative programming services include pair programming, swarm programming and training and mentoring.

1. Pair programming

Remote pair programming is where two or more programmers conduct pair programming in different locations. The process is done via an IDE sharing tool or screen share.

Remote pair programming is an effective way to teach since it helps students practice real-life programming. Students help each other and clarify any false beliefs when errors are rectified. 

A beginner can get suggestions or comments from a more experienced student. During the process, the experienced one also masters the concept by explaining.

2. Swarm programming

Swarm programming is where you develop, debug, and fix code simultaneously with your whole team in a single remote collaborative IDE.

3. Training and mentoring

Collaborative programming services allow you to invite others to your project so that you can show and explain the code to them. It’s an excellent fit for the classroom and online coding interviews.

Save time and teach programming effectively with Almira!

Alemira Coding Lab is an interactive lab environment for all programming courses. The lab provides a code-centric, developer-friendly course authoring experience and automates student assessments. 

Alemira coding lab is tailor-made to improve your training effectiveness. The hands-on evaluation puts your student’s skills to the test and helps them learn.

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