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The effect of short formative diagnostic web quizzes with minimal feedback
KTH, School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC), Media technology and interaction design, MID.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5626-1187
KTH, School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC), Theoretical Computer Science, TCS.
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Williams College, Williamstown, MA, USA.
2013 (English)In: Computers and education, ISSN 0360-1315, Vol. 60, no 1, 234-242 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

To help students gauge their understanding of basic concepts and encourage good study habits, we administered short online quizzes that use generic questions in the crucial first few weeks of a course. The purpose of the study was to investigate whether the combination of these web quizzes with generic questions with only binary feedback (right or wrong) would be beneficial for students' learning. We implemented these quizzes in three classes in two different subjects at two different universities, one in Sweden and one in the USA. The students' views on the quizzes' effect on their learning was investigated with surveys and interviews.

Almost all students appreciated having these quizzes and 38% of them changed their view on how much they knew of the material covered in the course. Furthermore, over 20% of the students reported altering their study habits as a consequence, in particular studying harder or earlier.

In conclusion, this study indicated that short quizzes using generic questions with limited correct/incorrect feedback on each question, have positive effects when administered early in courses.

The combination of generic questions and short quizzes could be of value for those contemplating automatic formative assessment, particularly if there is some hesitation with respect to the resources needed for constructing and validating the automatic feedback.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2013. Vol. 60, no 1, 234-242 p.
Keyword [en]
Improving classroom teaching, Interactive learning environments, Distance education and telelearning, Post-secondary education
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-109505DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2012.08.014ISI: 000312231900021ScopusID: 2-s2.0-84866519433OAI: diva2:582932
Virtual Campus at Resource Centre for Net-based Education, KTH Royal Institute of Technology

QC 20130110

Available from: 2013-01-07 Created: 2013-01-07 Last updated: 2014-09-29Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. On difficult topics in theoretical computer science education
Open this publication in new window or tab >>On difficult topics in theoretical computer science education
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis primarily reports on an action research project that has been conducted on a course in theoretical computer science (TCS). The course is called Algorithms, data structures, and complexity (ADC) and is given at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

The ADC course is an introduction to TCS, but resembles and succeeds courses introducing programming, system development best practices, problem solving, proving, and logic. Requiring the completion of four programming projects, the course can easily be perceived as a programming course by the students. Most previous research in computer science education has been on programming and introductory courses.

The focus of the thesis work has been to understand what subject matter is particularly difficult to students. In three action research cycles, the course has been studied and improved to alleviate the discovered difficulties. We also discuss how the course design may color students’ perceptions of what TCS is. Most of the results are descriptive.

Additionally, automated assessment has been introduced in the ADC course as well as in introductory courses for non-CS majors. Automated assessment is appreciated by the students and is directing their attention to the importance of program correctness. A drawback is that the exercises in their current form are not likely to encourage students to take responsibility for program correctness.

The most difficult tasks of the course are related to proving correctness, solving complex dynamic programming problems, and to reductions. A certain confusion regarding the epistemology, tools and discourse of the ADC course and of TCS in general can be glimpsed in the way difficulties manifest themselves. Possible consequences of viewing the highly mathematical problems and tools of ADC in more practical, programming, perspective, are discussed. It is likely that teachers could explicitly address more of the nature and discourse of TCS in order to reduce confusion among the students, for instance regarding the use of such words and constructs as “problem”, “verify a solution”, and “proof sketch”.

One of the tools used to study difficulties was self-efficacy surveys. No correlation was found between the self-efficacy beliefs and the graded performance on the course. Further investigation of this is beyond the scope of this thesis, but may be done with tasks corresponding more closely and exclusively to each self-efficacy item.

Didactics is an additional way for a professional to understand his or her subject. Didactics is concerned with the teaching and learning of something, and hence sheds light on that “something” from an angle that sometimes is not reflected on by its professionals. Reflecting on didactical aspects of TCS can enrichen the understanding of the subject itself, which is one goal with this work.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2014. vi, 94 p.
TRITA-CSC-A, ISSN 1653-5723 ; 2014:15
National Category
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-152357 (URN)978-91-7595-267-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-10-17, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, KTH, Stockholm, 14:00 (English)

QC 20140929

Available from: 2014-09-29 Created: 2014-09-25 Last updated: 2014-09-29Bibliographically approved

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