Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

The Impact of Peer Assessment and Feedback Strategy in Learning Computer Programming in Higher Education

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

The Impact of Peer Assessment and Feedback Strategy in Learning Computer Programming in Higher Education

Article excerpt


Increasing emphasis has been placed in recent years on the significance of assessment for learning. One of the significant contributions in this area is that of Black and Wiliam (1998) who conducted an extensive review of related research and confirmed broad evidence for the value of using assessment for learning to raise standards. Their literature review includes studies reporting learning gains related to the use of assessment for learning strategies, applicable to a diverse range of targets and in various disciplines. Numerous studies (Brown et al., 2009; Black & Wiliam, 2009; Elwood, 2006; Carless, 2005) of effective strategies for assessment for learning have been reported in academic journals in recent years. To advance our knowledge in this area further, this study explores the effectiveness of strategies related to assessment for learning in teaching an undergraduate computer programming course. The following sections introduce the theoretical framework for this research and then describe the research setting, design, and rationale, as well as ethical concerns. In the final section, the data collection methods are set out, and the results analyzed and discussed.

Theoretical Framework

Difficulties with Computer Programming

Programming can be regarded as a very useful skill. Introductory programming courses are popular in the higher education sector as part of the foundations of an information technology-related cur riculum (Robins et al., 2003). However, programming is a complex intellectual activity and few students find it easy to learn. Programming courses are generally regarded as difficult and often have high dropout rates (Ahoniemi et al., 2007). It is an eminent problem that has motivated many researchers to propose methodologies and tools to help students learn computer programming (Robins et al., 2003; Gomes & Mendes, 2007; Jenkins, 2002).

The difficulties involved in learning how to program have various aspects, among which the linguistic intricacies of computer programming languages have been addressed by many researchers (Hristova et al., 2003; Jenkins, 2002; Gomes & Mendes, 2007, Truong et al., 2004). As mentioned by Gomes and Mendes (2007), the syntax of programming languages is very complex. Computer programming languages were developed for professional use with many complex syntactic details to be memorized, and are not suitable for novices. It is common for students to find it difficult to detect simple syntactical and logical programming errors. In this connection, efforts have been made by academics to address common programming errors made by students (Truong et al., 2004). However, despite extensive coverage of such mistakes in textbooks and lectures, they tend to persist when students actually write programs (Hristova et al., 2003). To enhance the accuracy on writing computer programs so as to further improve students' overall programming abilities, it is still worth making an effort to explore effective strategies for tackling students' common programming errors.

Assessment for Learning

Black and Wiliam (1998b) defined assessment broadly to include all activities undertaken by teachers and students to obtain information that can be used diagnostically to alter teaching and learning. In the literature, few studies investigate the use of such assessment for learning strategies in the field of computer programming, particularly in identifying common programming errors. The purpose of assessment for learning, also known as formative assessment, includes identifying students' strengths and weaknesses, assisting educators in the planning of subsequent instruction, helping students to guide their own learning, and fostering increased autonomy and responsibility for one's own learning (Cizek, 2010).

According to Cizek (2010), teachers' work in assessing students is intended to collect evidence on their learning so that both parties can further develop specific strategies to improve its learning effectiveness. …

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