Some Strategies when Teaching
Altogether, preparation for oral exams
can be relatively modest, but substantial
time may be required to listen to each
student. However, with the grading sheet,
I can add point values as soon as an exam
is over, and little grading is needed after
Overall, oral exams (with relatively
small classes) provide a mechanism to help
students improve their oral skills, cover a
planned scope of material, and allow a
structured mechanism to assess students’
work within categories.
Each course presents its own challenges
and opportunities for teaching and learning. Over the years, much discussion (in
print and at conferences) has been devoted to lectures, active learning, etc. The
ideas presented here (multiple proofs,
oral presentations, oral final exams) seem
to have had less discussion, but may
be of interest to teachers in a range of
Many thanks to Kent McClelland for developing a practical
feedback form [ 1] for students giving class presentations. The
form I use in class builds directly on his insightful work that
helped transform my thinking. Thanks also to Marge Coahran
who provided wonderful feedback in the development and
polishing of this column.
[ 1] Mc Clelland, K., Assessment Criteria for Class Presentations, http:// web.grinnell.edu/Dean/Tutorial/Skills/Oral/aco.
pdf. Accessed 2014 June 29.
[ 2] Walker, H., Proofs for Class Discussion, CSC 341, http://
for-class-discussion.pdf, 2014. Accessed 2014 June 29.
[ 3] Walker, H., Feedback on Class Presentations, CSC 341,
presentation-feedback-form.txt, 2014. Accessed 2014
Henry M. Walker
Department of Computer Science
Noyce Science Center
1116 Eighth Avenue
Grinnell Iowa 50112 USA
Copyright held by author.
COMPUTING EDUCATION RESEARCH
Tools Research – What Is It?
DESIGNING, IMPLEMENTING AND
EVALUATING various software tools to
support teaching and learning programming have had a major role in doctoral
theses projects in my research group.
Indeed, eight of the ten completed theses,
and four out of five currently in progress
concern various software tools. Reflecting
on this set, as well as my recent work in
surveying computing education literature
tempts me to discuss this sub-area in computing education research more closely.
What kind of work is tools research?
In this context I use the term for work
concerning specifically tailored software
for computing education, such as tools
for automatic assessment of programming
submissions, software visualization, as well
as educational games for computing education. Generic educational technology is
not a part of it.
Tools research has been a substantial
area in computing education for decades. Valentine in his survey of 20 years
of SIGCSE symposium papers (1983-
2003) [ 1] identified 22% of papers as
tools papers, mostly concerning various
software tools to support teaching and
learning. Recently I was involved in a
survey project where over thousand computing education papers were analyzed
from relevant journals and conferences in
years 2005-2011. The results identified
some 5-25% of publications in different venues as papers focusing on new
software and/or hardware tools (or new
aspects of existing tools), most of which
were specifically developed for computing education.
Tools development as a research area
includes several challenges both for
designing and reporting research, such
as: What is the educational problem being addressed by the tool? How has the
significance of the problem been demonstrated? Can we use some learning
theories to support designing the functionality and use cases of the tool? How
is the tool evaluated? What is considered
a contribution that merits publishing the
All tools supposedly are based on a
hypothesis that they provide some benefit
for teachers or students (why would
anyone use the effort without this?). But
how do we formulate such hypotheses?
Suppose we aim at building a new visu-
Tools research has
been a substantial
area in computing
decades. … Tools
development as a
challenges both for