Assessments are a great opportunity for students to demonstrate their new knowledge, however writing a great assessment for students to enjoy and exercise their skills can prove difficult and time consuming. This section aims to highlight areas and techniques I and others have found useful in creating programming and planning assessments.
Assessment Setting and Context
Context can make or break the enjoyment a student will receive from working on an assignment. Students only enjoy making a shopping calculator the first few times (or never) and it's also not a great representation of what programming can be used for.
If you ask students what they want to make, most students often struggle to choose something as they don't know the breadth of options, or they just want to make a game as it's something they have experienced using (how many students use investment systems?). However programs that seek to do 'social good' are often taken on by students, especially if they can visualise it being used. I explain to my students that these programs won't end up be deployed, as software development is an ongoing process of development and support and with students continually moving onwards it is hard to keep their software alive. But they can still see how this program could be useful.
In finding a topic, look at the world around you! It can be hard to see at first, but there are plenty of programming opportunities around you. Three major sources of assessment ideas are:
- Everyday tasks - Struggling to track how much exercise you do in a month, calories you eat, or books you have read? Want to know how many times Ron asks a question in Harry Potter? These are all great assessment ideas!
- News - The local and world news is filled with plenty of scenarios where programming can be used for social good.
- Statistics - A fun exercise can be taking raw data (that are hard to read and see trends) and calculate summarised statistics (which are much easier to read). Statistics New Zealand has plenty of interesting data freely available, and the easiest way to extract this data is through NZ.Stat (want to find how many fawns are weaned in Hawkes Bay from 2002 to 2014? That's in there!).
Remember to make an assessment for students and not yourself, look at their lives and what appeals to them.
Maths vs everything else.