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Center for Teaching and Learning

Focused Inquiry Groups (FIGs) - Title III: Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking - Members: Desmund Chun

Critical Thinking Assessment Pilot Project

CSCI 8 - Computer Literacy & CSCI 14 - Programming with C++

Fall 2008

 

Application

CSCI 8 (2 sections - 01 and 02) Computer Literacy: Assignment 3 – Issued 10/20/08 and due 0/27/08, 25 point

The assignment involved the construction of a basic spreadsheet.

  1. The cell values and general format of the spreadsheet was issued in hardcopy format with the assignment. See attached spreadsheet and Word document.
  2. The assignment draws:
    1. On the relevant lectures and the text.
    2. There is a supporting Blackboard site at http://clpccd.blackboard.com containing example spreadsheets essentially the “same” that a student could download and view under Excel to “see” the formulas and functions (i.e. “reverse engineer” a solution).
  3. Formulas are described on the assignment including “where” to put them on the spreadsheet.
  4. Students were told:
    1. The “power of a spreadsheet lies in its capability to perform automatic calculations based on formulas and functions.
    2. The class was warned that if you simply copy the numeric values into the spreadsheet, it is no better than a Word document that cannot be updated automatically and that I will assign you “1 point”.

 Breakdowns ran as follows:

  • CSCI 8–01: 29 students enrolled with:
    1. 16 students did not turn in the assignment
    2. 2 students essentially just typing in the numeric values with no attempt at using formulas or functions (did not understand the concept of a spreadsheet)
    3. 2 students showing some recognition of some of the spreadsheet concepts but missing some of the required formulas or functions (did not recognize a similar opportunity or need to use a concept).
    4. 3 students showing “competent” mastery but making a minor error or missing one area of application (e.g. “they did it here but failed to do it there in another place of the spreadsheet”, probable carelessness)
    5. 4 students showing “mastery” with no errors
  • CSCI 8-02: 29 students enrolled with:
    1. 10 students did not turn in the assignment
    2. 4 students essentially just typing in the numeric values with no attempt at using formulas or functions (did not understand the concept of a spreadsheet)
    3. 3 students showing some recognition of some of the spreadsheet concepts but missing some of the required formulas or functions (did not recognize a similar opportunity or need to use a concept).
    4. 4 students showing “competent” mastery but making a minor error or missing one area of application (e.g. “they did it here but failed to do it there in another place of the spreadsheet”, probable carelessness)
    5. 8 students showing “mastery” with no errors

 

CSCI 14 (1 section – 02) Programming with C++ - Assignment 7 – Issued 11/13/08 and due 11/20/08, 25 points

The assignment involved (see attached assignment)

  1. Entering a string of text (words separated by blanks) with each letter to be translated into its equivalent Morse code (encoding)
  2. Entering Morse code and translating that code into its equivalent letters or digits (decoding)
  3. Having the student develop the logic to carry out the required specifications
  4. Success is measured on whether the application initially compiles into an operational program and whether it meets specifications and “works” correctly.

 The logic for the program involves:

  • The application should be divided into 2 basic sections allowing the program user to select which function they would like to do.
  • The basic logic for encoding is:
    1. Entering a string of text.
    2. Determine how many characters including blanks are in that string.
    3. Use “For loop” to pull off one character at a time (i.e. letter, digit, blank or other character symbol) to evaluate it. That character will be compared against the Morse code to determine what it is its coded equivalent
    4. The comparison will either find a Morse equivalent (i.e. letters, digits, some punctuation marks) or no comparisons (e.g. “*”, “%”, “#”). A blank is a blank.
    5. A new string is “built” containing each Morse code for each original letter/digit in the original string. This is the encoding.
  • The basic logic for decoding is:
    1. There are multiple ways to code this part of the program.
    2. The user can either enter the Morse code one code group at a time (i.e. .-. or .-.- or or ..)  or all of the code in one string separated by a blank (i.e. …  .--.   .--.  .  --).
    3. Depending on how the data was entered will determine the method used to decode it.
    4. Entering one Morse code at a time:
  1. Entering one Morse code group at a time – This is the easier method. That code group (i.e. .-.-or ) would be compared against a series of if…else if statements that contain the letter/digit equivalent.

  2. A string containing the letters/digits or blank is built. That is the decoding.

    1. Entering a series of Morse code groups separated by blanks:
  1. Determine the number of characters in the string (dots, dashes, blanks or other symbols)

  2. Copy each character into a temporary test string until a blank is read. That blank “tells” the logic that it has a “complete” Morse code group.

  3. Two arrays are used. An array of Morse code and a second array of the equivalent letters/digits. If the logic finds a Morse equivalent, that index location must be the location of the letter/digit in the second array of letters/digits

  4. A string of letters/digits/blanks is created. That is the decoded message.

 

 

Summary of Observations

Applications in programming are usually “all or nothing”. If it does not compile it does not work. If it compiles there may or may not be logic errors.

  1. Many students do not adequately test their applications to determine if the output produces
  2. Students will attempt to turn in non operational programs to “meet” the deadline. I give a 5 point penalty for “late” assignments before any deductions for incorrect output or logic errors. It is “smarter” to turn in a fully operational and correct application “late” rather then turn in a nonfunctioning or incorrect program “on time”.
  3. Many students will not or cannot debug errors. This involves devoting time and effort since programming diagnostics are at “best” cryptic and there are too many variations of errors. It involves knowledge of the compiler and the grammar/syntax of the language itself.
  4. Many students attempt to “code” the program without adequate logic design or a full understanding of the ramifications of the logic or selection of code used (“why did you do that?”)

 

 

Conclusions

It is my professional conjectures that a “failing” student:

  • Underestimates the problems, demands and requirements of being a programmer
  • Attempting to intellectually and conceptually “put square pegs into round holes” by dogmatically using the text or lecture examples as a template without an appreciation that “there is no set or pat answers in the real world”. It is a failure to translate concepts into workable solutions. In effect, no “imagination” to identify what is in effect a similar situation “dressed differently”.
  • Have an unrealistic expectation that it is easier to “ask” the instructor for the “answer” then to develop it themselves (a “dangerous” belief in Corporate America or in higher level classes at a four year institution).
  • Failure to show up at lectures or “falling asleep” in class thinking that what is being explained “they already know” or “I can use the Blackboard examples”.

Breakdowns are as follows:

  • 18 students did not turn in the assignment

  • 16 students successfully accomplished the specifications of the assignment (one of these was “late”)

  • 1 student turned in a non operational assignment that I had to make debug corrections to get it to run. Points were deducted accordingly

There is a supporting Blackboard site with instructor notes on each text chapter, links to the web for C++ tutorials and many examples demonstration aspects of the language.

 

 
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