Day 4. Are Your Students Learning? How to check for learning as we’re teaching.

By Yanina Bellini Saibene in Education Community 100DaysToOffload 30Ship30

May 9, 2024

a blue question mark on the rigth on a pink background

Foto de Towfiqu barbhuiya en Unsplash

The most effective way to test student understanding is to do it while the lesson’s still going on. This is called formative assessment because it forms (or shapes) the teaching while it takes place. 

Over the last five years, I have used formative assessments for over 80 short-format training and over 10 semester-long courses. They are the best ways I have found to:

  • Diagnosing Misconceptions.

  • Adjust my lesson based on the information I get in each check.

  • Give learners a way to check that they actually understand.

Here are 5 exercises you can use as formative assessments when teaching coding skills, that will allow you to support your student at the moment when the learning is happening.

Multiple-choice questions 

They are most effective when the wrong answers are used to probe for specific misconceptions. This way, each learner who gave an incorrect answer misunderstands in a different way, and each one, therefore, needs a different explanation to move forward. This helps you to decide what to explain next.

Code and run

The learner writes code that produces a specified output. It should be brief and have only one or two plausible correct answers. The teacher can be the one writing the code and ask students for a prediction on what will happen and then run and check (this works very well for online classes).

Fill in the blanks

We provide some starter code, and our students have to complete it. We can ask for less code to fill for the first exercises and more code (providing less scaffolding) for the subsequent ones. These exercises work better if we focus on one aspect of the code to fill each time. For example, we ask to complete the parameters value or the function names, but not both at the same time.

Parsons Problem

We give our learners jumbled blocks or lines of code needed to solve a problem and ask them to reorganize the code into the correct order to perform a specific task.

Theme and variation 

We provide the code and ask our students to make a small modification that changes the output in some specific way (we can also ask them to make a change to fix a bug). Allowed changes can include changing a variable’s initial value, replacing one function call with another, swapping inner and outer loops, or changing the order of tests in a complex conditional.

Feedback tools

There are many other techniques for formative assessment, as long as they help us get feedback on students' understanding. Also, remember that students don’t pass or fail a formative assessment.

The best are quick (30-120 seconds), unambiguous (scalable), and have diagnostic power (guide our teaching).

Using them will improve your student’s learning process and make your lessons more effective.

Posted on:
May 9, 2024
3 minute read, 466 words
Education Community 100DaysToOffload 30Ship30
Education Community 100DaysToOffload 30Ship30
See Also:
Proyecto 2 - Las Estrellas del Universo R
Project 2 - The Stars of R-Universe
Project 1 - rOpenSci's Code of Conduct and Code of Conduct Committee