Actions Speak louder than words
presented with
Avril Mallon
Bobby Osa
David Espin
Westminster Kingsway College
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Some problems
• Misconceptions (Tutor and learner – tutor thinks learners know
more than what they do – learners trust tutors are going at the right
pace – pace spirals uncontrollably)
• Assumptions (“Wow! Aren’t they ALL smart?” - whole class
doomed apart from a few)
• Lack of creativity (Little participation, variety, sedentary learners)
• Poor analogies (or no analogy – too abstract)
(continuation)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
• Experiential learning (Mostly Ignored – students are
taught abstract concepts without reference to their own
real world experiences)
• “Practical / Lab sessions” (little interactivity between
students. Mostly coding exercises)
•
Learning styles (ignored – “we’re too busy”,
understandably so, but differentiated learning)
• No dialogue (“What do you expect? We teach”)
(What I do on first day of programming)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
First day of programming
Many students don’t have a clue what a
program is or what it does.
• Watch the opening scene of David Lean’s 1946,
Great Expections (Watch the worried
expressions as they wonder whether they’re in
the right room)
• Get them into paired groups. Ask them to write
down what they think makes up a play or film –
the components. (brief task)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Spending no more than 2 – 3 minutes (in
pairs)
Task 1 – Write down what you believe to be
the components of a movie or play
Task 2 – What’s the analogy between these
components and the components of a
finished program
(Some answers)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
(Experiential Learning – The relationship between the two)
This might encourage debate here, but that’s a good thing. Isn’t it?
• Director - compiler
• Beginning and end – sequence and structure
• Props – identifiers, different types to help program function
• Dialogue – the code; exchange of data between entities
• Actors – functions, things that do things
• Roles – specific behaviours of functions and procedures
• Script – it’s got to be kept to; syntactic/semantic correctness
• Stage – if it’s not in the code it won’t be compiled
• (What is Experiential learning)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
“One type of experiential learning is 'education that
occurs as a direct participation in the events of life'
(Houle 1980: 221). Here learning is not sponsored by
some formal educational institution but by people
themselves. It is learning that is achieved through
reflection upon everyday experience and is the way that
most of us do our learning”.
All students understand concepts such as movies,
supermarket checkouts, weather conditions, shelves on
a bookcase, and secrets. These can be applied to
abstract concepts such as selection statements, iteration
(un/deterministic), array data types, identifier scope etc.
(aim of the role play about to be performed)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
• My aim in getting students to act out bits of code
– Bridging the gap between experiential learning and abstract
concepts (get learners to bring in their ordinary experiences into
the development of coding)
– Provoking dialog and debate (if it doesn’t make sense then why
not – how could it reflect what really happens at, say address
level – can also repair holes in knowledge that people didn’t
know they had – Local Vs Private, Global Vs Public esp in VB)
– Encouraging all student participation (there’s always a quiet one
or two that won’t ask questions)
– Build Confidence – portraying undeterministic iteration is easier
to act out as a supermarket checkout staff member, and
understand, than explaining what “do while / while” code does
– Refining the role play to reflect as accurately as possible coding
concepts (Do role play & feedback from Yr 2 students)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Feedback from when we did a ‘run through’ in front of
year 2 students
Provoke dialogue – Rehearsed before Year 2 software
developers who had differing views on effectiveness
Puts things into perspective (Avril’s explanation)
Works well when used in conjunction with technical
explanations of coding but lacks essential detail if used
in isolation
Appeals to a variety of learning styles particularly tactile
and kinaesthetic
(What students do after their role play)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
• Students will complete a questionnaire with
questions such as
– Who was main talking to
– Who swaps numbers
– What does main pass to swapbyval
– What does main pass to swapbyref
– What does ‘by value’ mean
– What does ‘by reference’ mean
This tests listening skills, and understanding
(We looked at some problems earlier, now some
solutions provided by role play)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Some solutions provided by use of role play
• Gets all learners involved; writing the script, identifying
the parts. Everyone, absolutely everyone can contribute,
even if they’re playing a simple static unsigned int
• Encourage creativity and generation of ideas through the
use of role play. Other successful role play activities
includes : scope (Bobby will testify to this), data types
and structures, searching and sorting multidimensional
arrays…3 x 3 students became arrays a few months ago
with great results
(more solutions)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
• Better analogies – (experiential learning)
– Learners use clearly defined acting roles, doing
specific things –
• postmen/women posting at addresses,
• ‘wear shades or take umbrella’ - selection statements
• ‘working at the supermarket checkout’ – iteration
• Encourage dialogue
– Get students engaged in dialogue - get them to be
critical about scenes acted out
(How Year 1 felt about it after the first pilot run)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Year 1 learners – feedback on effectiveness
of role play
– It provides a good overview of the basic
constructs, i.e. basic inputs and outputs,
variables and constants, address
manipulation, data handling and identifier
scope
– Works more effectively if used in conjunction
with conventional explanations and
descriptions of code. (more feedback)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
• It encourages teamwork, inclusive learning, and a better
understanding through the usage of everyday
experiences
– It encourages the effective generation of analogies –
putting shoes into “egg boxes” and putting eggs into
“shoe boxes” (correct use of data types), book
shelves (memory)
– Good understanding observed when engaging with
learners in conversations about code meaning
(overall effectiveness in results)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Effectiveness in terms of understanding, coursework
and exams
• Better explanations during written explanations /
descriptions of abstract concepts – reduces copy and
paste or plagiarism – students remember a scene then
associated code more easier and quicker than
remembering code i.e. a sort algorithm
• Improvement in formative assessment – students
produce a scene and then attempt to write code based
on it each week. Scene can be simple selection such as
‘shades and umbrella’ i.e. findmaxofTwo function (more
on effectiveness)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
• More reasonable summative grades attained
when used in conjunction with conventional
methods.(19 / 23 with pass grades)
• Very effective with design - Students find it
useful when helping them produce pseudo-code,
or organising the flow of events – planning and
structuring; the analogy as a whole has helped
set a context within which to work
• Effective when used to describe concepts that
cannot be seen i.e. memory locations, memory
management, pointers (summary)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Summary
• Time consuming – takes time to generate
even the shortest scene
• It’s not for everyone – learners learn at
different paces and the stronger learners
are more inclined to want to approach
coding from a coding perspective not role
play (more on summary)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
• More effective when scenes are relatively short - got to
be well planned and thought out
• Appeals to a variety of learning styles – auditory, visual,
kinaesthetic
• Promotes/provokes Dialogue – Not everyone will agree
that the acted scenes depict the reality of a piece of code
– promotes refinement and better understanding
• Promotes Inclusive learning – Not everyone feels
confident asking questions of a technical nature, but
might feel encouraged to ask questions about whether a
scene makes sense. (more on summary)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
• Fun. It also encourages team building and
team work as well as a common
understanding of key concepts.
(Acknowledgements)
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Thanks to Avril Mallon, Bobby Osa, and
David Espin for the reworking of, and
dramatisation of the role play.
Special thanks to Catherine Lepper for
tidying up the loose ends in the
presentation.
Everett A Scott - 9th Programming
Workshop, Bath University
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Actions Speak Louder Than Words