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CSTA2021 Workshop: Misconceptions as Learning Opportunities

Turn student misconceptions into learning opportunities through formative feedback!

When: Thursday, July 15, 2020; 11:00 AM-12:30 PM (Central Time)

Session Presenters: Shuchi Grover, Bryan Twarek, and others!

Unlike summative assessment, which grades students at the end of a unit or academic term, formative assessment is assessment for learning. It is aimed at monitoring ongoing student learning to provide feedback to both student and teacher, so that learning gaps can be addressed during the learning process. Research in various STEM and non-STEM subjects points to the importance of formative assessment as a crucial vehicle for improving student learning. This workshop provides an excellent opportunity for CS teachers of all grade levels to gain a fundamental understanding of formative assessments and how to use them in classroom teaching and learning. Many learners struggle with programming due to commonly harbored misconceptions about various programming constructs; for example, the belief that variables can only hold one value at a time, how variable assignment occurs, and how loops or functions work. As teachers supporting learners in CS classrooms, we must be aware of what these misconceptions are and how to identify them through formative assessments in order to help learners overcome them and move forward as programmers. As has been done successfully in mathematics, programming misconceptions can form the basis for “diagnostic assessment” items, which can be used in formative ways for quick assessment and feedback on student understanding. Participants in this workshop will gain an awareness of forty known misconceptions and targets of difficulty that many novice learners of programming struggle with. The workshop will provide participants with the opportunity to work in groups to create formative assessments that target these misconceptions and provide teachers with feedback on student understanding. The workshop will end with discussions on what formative action teachers can take—such as tracing exercises, variable inspection, and programming exercises—to help them build their understanding of key concepts so that all learners can succeed in learning programming. Participants will contribute to collaborative Google Docs that will become resources for teachers in the CSForAll community to use in their introductory programming classrooms.