Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The APCS Principles pilot flies into the last few weeks

The APCS Principles pilot class is moving right along into its final weeks. Several people have been asking how the midterm went - so consider this "part 1" of a response to you.

The midterm grades came back and they were quite good. The average score on the midterm was 86% even though there is evidence that the exam was not particularly easy. In one of my next posts I hope to have some information about the topics and their frequency  on the test to bolster this statement and provide additional information. For now I am able to report that of the well over 500 students in the class, only 4 got a perfect score and approximately 50 scored over 95%. I do not have a statistical standard deviation at this time, but have been told that there was a tight clustering of grades with almost no students falling into the traditional "failure" range.  

In recent weeks Beth Simon has added a new tactic to her exam preparation techniques. After a quiz question and discussion of the correct and incorrect answers she often says: "Write down what you need to remember about this question - for the final exam".  She pauses while they do so. In other words she is helping them prepare by progressively building a study sheet each day during lecture. In addition, to bolster the quality of what goes on these study sheets, part of the class and quiz discussions include asking students to "debug" their choices - to form the habit of mind of learning to problem solve when dealing with a computer, whether it is code or a different type of computing problem.

Students are now well into working on their final project, which will be presented late next week. There will be a contest in which students will get to vote for best projects. The projects should be interesting as there is room for significant student creativity. More on that when it happens.

Finally, and this will also be the subject of a fuller posting, the class has shifted into using Excel. Rather than having a clean break, Beth is making connections between "coding" that students can do in Excel and what they learned in Alice programming. More on that to come as well.

Ok, that wasn't really "finally". There will also be a report soon about a conversation with another visiting scholar. That is truly finally the last item in this post!

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