Bill MacKenty

 
 
 

A wonderful way to learn software engineering

Posted in Computer Science on 06 - November 2022 at 04:28 AM (4 weeks ago). 52 views.

Authentic student projects; choice, choice, choice.

I teach two different courses primarily concerned with software engineering; 

  1. Designing Solutions Through Programming
  2. Solving Complex Problems Through Programming

In both courses I offer students a choice about what problem they want to solve. As long as the problem isn't too easy or too difficult I approve the project. This creates agency which well-serves my students. I find I get increased engagement, excitement, a sense that students are working a “real” solution which matters. From AMLE:

Student agency relates to ways that students can intentionally influence their own circumstances (Bandura, 2006). Agency can also be defined as a “student’s desire, ability, and power to determine their own course of action” (Vaughn, 2018, p. 63). Agency depends on “intentionality and forethought to derive a course of action and adjust course as needed to reflect one’s identity, competencies, knowledge and skills, mindsets, and values” (Nagaoka et al., 2015, p. 6). These elements suggest areas within which teachers can support student agency: through curriculum, instruction, assessment, and the ways in which they structure learning opportunities (source).

This is though, more difficult to manage. I like to use templates that students can alter and modify to build solutions. We deliberately and carefully learn about each part of a template so students can understand the code, and not just copy-and-paste chunks without understanding how it works. 

I plan on writing more about this, but this overall structure, where we teach students how to code, walk them through a template, and then build an authentic application allows them to transfer their learning to build applications and then “think software engineering”.