Day 24. The Single Most Powerful Technique to Foster Students' Motivation in Programming Classes

By Yanina Bellini Saibene in Education Community 100DaysToOffload 30Ship30

May 29, 2024

computer with pictures on the screen

Foto de NordWood Themes en Unsplash

Adrian Paenza is an Argentine mathematician, university professor, and science popularizer who won the Leelavati Prize for popularizing mathematics.

In his talk for that prize (which I recommend everyone to watch), he says:

Why do so many people feel proud to say, “I was never good at math ?” Because we entered mathematics through the wrong door. Mainly, we started by giving the students answers to questions they had never asked.

Today, I want to introduce you to a teaching strategy to give our students answers to questions they have:

Authentics Task

Motivation doesn’t always lead to achievement, but achievement almost always leads to motivation.

We can use this idea in teaching by creating a grid whose axes are “mean time to master” and “usefulness once mastered."

  • Things that are quick to master and immediately useful should be taught first because a few early wins will build learners' confidence in themselves and their teachers.

  • Things that are hard to learn and aren’t useful to your learners at their current stage of development should be skipped entirely,

  • While topics along the diagonal need to be weighed against each other. 

For example, instead of printing “hello world” a learner’s first program might open an image, resize it to create a thumbnail and save the result.

This is an authentic task, i.e. something that learners believe they would actually do in real life. It also has a tangible artifact: learners have something in hand that can guide their debugging if the image comes out the wrong size.

For my data science classes using the R language, we teach how to plot first because plots are one of the first things analysts have to do in the analysis process.

There will always be tension between giving learners authentic problems and exercising the individual skills they need to solve those problems, but entering programming through the right door can motivate our students to continue on the programming path.

Posted on:
May 29, 2024
2 minute read, 329 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