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The Lab Tutor System of a Large Undergraduate Class: The Lab Tutors Perspective Charlie Daly, Dave Donnellan, Monica Ward and Ray Walshe.

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Presentation on theme: "The Lab Tutor System of a Large Undergraduate Class: The Lab Tutors Perspective Charlie Daly, Dave Donnellan, Monica Ward and Ray Walshe."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Lab Tutor System of a Large Undergraduate Class: The Lab Tutors Perspective Charlie Daly, Dave Donnellan, Monica Ward and Ray Walshe

2 Introduction Computer Applications degree at DCU First Year Students Computer Programming Large class (300-400) Lab component

3 Forces Non-completion rates –Computing courses have high attrition rates Computer Programming –Studies show that many Introductory Programming Courses do not work

4 HEA report A Study of Non-Completion in Undergraduate University Courses –Average Non-Completion rate is 16.8% –Highest in Computing (33%) Reasons –Students choose wrong subjects –Financial pressures –Low points (measure of school leaving results) non completion

5 Computing Not taught at second level –Students don't know what it involves –Worse: they think they know Programming is difficult –Problem solving –Abstract reasoning Leaving cert does not prepare students –Tends to encourage rote learning non completion

6 Computing at DCU 1999: Doubled intake from 150 to 300 –Points dropped from 420 to 360 –all the extra students from the lower point range Large class size can increase sense of isolation among students. non completion

7 Force 1 Non-Completion rates Students don't know what computing involves. Increasing class size reduces points. Large class size can increase feelings of isolation. All factors in increasing non-completion rates. non completion

8 Force 2 Do students in introductory computing courses know how to program at the expected skill level? An international multi-institutional study of introductory programming courses ITiCSE 2001 No.

9 Assessment "The spirit and style of student assessment defines the de facto curriculum" Assessing Students, Derek Rowntree '77

10 The Problem with Programming It is difficult to assess programming ability in a traditional written exam. Programming exercises are subject to plagiarism; a serious problem in introductory programming courses. If you do not assess something, the students will not learn it.

11 Computer Programming 1 So what are we to do? The starting point is to have good assessment. If the only way that they can pass is by learning to program; then they will at least try to learn to program. Lab work not directly assessed (i.e. was simply to improve programming ability)

12 Forces Non-completion rates –Computing courses have high attrition rates Computer Programming –Studies show that many Introductory Programming Courses do not work

13 YearSizePoints Failure rate Sem 1 Prog Exam 97-9815041020% 98-9915042015% 99-0030038530% 00-0130038520%30% 01-0230036020%

14 YearSizePoints Failure rate Sem 1 Prog Exam 97-9815041020% 98-9915042015% 99-0030038530% 00-0130038520%30% 01-0230036020%

15 YearSizePoints Failure rate Sem 1 Prog Exam 97-9815041020% 98-9915042015% 99-0030038530% 00-0130038520%30% 01-0230036020%

16 Improvements 00-01: Real programming Assessment and (and corresponding teaching changes) led to a reduction in failures 30% to 20% 01-02: Lab improvements led to a reduction in failure rates (in semester 1) 30% to 20% and improvement in female scores

17 Lab Improvements We restructured the entire timetable –Labs followed lectures –All labs on simultaneously Used 2 nd years to tutor 1 st years –Special training course for the second years –1 lab tutor for a bay of 10 students –Monitored lab tutors –Web based feedback system Encouraged social interaction –Ice-breaking session

18 Over to Dave End part 1

19 Increase Motivation Well organised course: week semesterweeksemester Have clear course objectives Explicit instructionsinstructions Explicit WarningsWarnings Interesting programming problems Have high expectations of the students

20 Cater for a range of abilities Good students –All labs have optional questions. –Three programming competitions.. Weaker students –Peer tutors directed to weaker students. –Extra remedial classes. –Intensive refresher course between semesters.

21 Encourage Problem Solving Approach Emphasize that rote learning gets you nowhere. Assess for problem solving e.g. –Early (week 6) programming exams marked by computer. Lab work not directly assessed (i.e. was simply to improve programming ability)

22 YearPointsSize Failure rate Prog Exam 97-9815020% 98-9942015015% 99-0038530030% 00-0138530020%30% 01-0236030020% Double class size 150 300


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