Education. Nevermind – what was it anyway, pt II

This post is a follow up to: Education. Nevermind – what was it anyway, pt I

Why another rant? – I really dunno. Guess I feel like writing 🙂

On exercises and supervision:
This is in my opinion much more important than lectures. Make sure that there’s enough resources for the students during supervision. Waiting 30 minutes to get help is not something that helps or motivates the students.

Make the exercises progress towards the goal. If you make too many exercises few students will complain. If you make too few, most students will complain. I did too few in my last course it seems. Shame on me.

Don’t point out beginner’s mistakes. Discuss the mistakes instead an propose other solutions.


It must be frustrating for a student to see other students learn at a speed much higher than yours. But in some, or perhaps most, cases it’s not true. If student starts the course already knowing parts of it is easy for student without this knowledge to think that he/she is slow, stupid or whatever. In this case we can point out that all students, well most students – there are some wizards, follow the same learning progression and the starting point is the thing that differs. This can be proved by the “weaker” students that often are doing great on the re-exams. That is: they do good results – just a bit later.

Another thing I’ve found to be good is to, during supervision, make the student think about if she would have thought she could write the code you’re looking at? Usually the answer is no followed by a smile. Help them realise that they actually make progress.


Why should they learn to program? Motivating why to know how to program is needed in programs such as Applied IT but probably not needed in Computer Science programs. Give the students some simple examples of problems they can solve by writing programs.

Try to come up with programming exercises that relate to the student’s reality. Sorting bank accounts in order is not fun. It really isn’t. I have created these exercises myself. Shame on me (again!).


So, given that education is about the student acquiring knowledge my job is to help them doing that. How do I do this:

  • Lectures – leave the old way. Try flipped classroom.
  • Exercises and supervision – spend time here, this is where you can lift students. Focus on:
    • Encourage the students to keep struggling
    • Motivate the students to keep struggling

Next week I will dive into how search engines are used as a study companion while we (teachers) keep thinking that the book is the tool used by the students.

One response to “Education. Nevermind – what was it anyway, pt II

  1. I like the idea–even in grade school–of 1) pairing up an accelerated learner with a non-accelerated learner, and 2) implementing a peer-to-peer tutoring via the pairing process early in the children’s schooling.

    (1), above, will (a) enable the instructor to identify who the able- or fluent- individuals are in the current topic, (b) allows the instructor to team the accelerated with the non-accelerated learner, ideally keeping the group’s overall progress better contained within a smaller range, keeping laggers from lagging and the accelerators accelerating, (c) teaches the concept of patience to all students and instructors involved,* and (d) multiplies and leverages the instructor’s teaching abilities beyond their own efforts by deputizing the skills and abilities of the accelerated students with the non-accelerated students.

    The pairings can target and match intellect of the different students, gives students the chance to learn to communicate to other students, to have first-hand experience in one-on-one teaching, and spreads the instructor’s knowledge further and more efficiently (many-to-many) than what could otherwise be the authoritarian approach where only the teacher teaches (one-to-many).


    Doug Parker
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    * Those in the accelerated and non-accelerated positions will change over time.

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