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The ache factors of educating pc science

The ache factors of educating pc science

2023-05-09 14:40:16

The ache factors of educating pc science – Austin Z. Henley

Austin Z. Henley

I work on AI + dev instruments.


This submit is an off-the-cuff abstract of our SIGCSE’23 paper, “What Is Your Largest Ache Level? An Investigation of CS Teacher Obstacles, Workarounds, and Needs”. See the preprint for extra particulars. Due to Samim Mirhosseini and Chris Parnin for the nice collaboration!

Instructing is difficult.

However precisely what about it’s arduous? How might know-how assist?

To research the ache factors that CS instructors face and their workarounds, we performed semi-structured interviews with 32 pc science instructors. Their establishments vary from giant analysis universities to small liberal arts schools and group schools throughout 7 completely different nations.

We requested open-ended questions on lecture construction, availability of assets comparable to TAs and software program, time spent on varied actions, methods used to enhance studying experiences, essentially the most painful features of working programs, and potential options to their ache factors.

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Ache factors

We recognized 6 classes of ache factors:

  • The place are college students struggling? It’s a large problem for instructors to know when college students are struggling. There’s usually not an efficient suggestions loop since instructors usually depend on college students to ask questions. Nevertheless, two instructors expressed why this does not work: “I am unable to see the place they get caught and many do not ask questions” and “college students are doing heaps and many issues however I am unable to course of all they’re doing”.
  • Answering scholar questions. In distinction, instructors and TAs are overwhelmed with responding to questions and issues. These questions are sometimes final minute, repetitive in nature, and require technical troubleshooting. For instance, “Why does Python now not exist?”.
  • Restricted TA assist. You is perhaps considering that educating assistants will simply remedy all these challenges! Sadly, most departments are understaffed with TAs, if they’ve any in any respect, regardless of rising enrollments. Instructors mentioned that even once they have TAs, they generally require appreciable time to handle and might not be dependable.
  • Grading and suggestions. Almost each teacher introduced up the time and tedium of grading. In actual fact, one teacher informed us “grading might be the largest burden of the programs”. Instructors additionally described how vital it’s to design a rubric and suggestions mechanism that’s clear and minimizes lawyering.
  • Course materials preparation. Instructors lamented concerning the excessive price of making and keep course supplies, comparable to lectures, assignments, and quizzes. They usually do not replace them over time as a result of they “simply haven’t got the assets”. The shift to on-line programs due to COVID-19 required important upfront funding, although instructors complained they noticed little engagement from college students.
  • Administrative duties. The grunt work of working a course contains managing social dynamics, accreditation duties, imposing educational trustworthy insurance policies, coping with LMS points, and so on. A number of instructors mentioned they wished they may spend this time bettering the course as an alternative. Coping with dishonest was in all probability the least favourite job of all!


We additionally recognized 5 classes of how instructors try to beat these ache factors:

  • Interactive textbooks and workout routines. To attenuate growing their very own course supplies and the grading of assignments, just a few instructors depend on paid interactive textbook companies which are commonly up to date. This additionally inspired a extra lively studying expertise, for the reason that different for a lot of instructors includes static notes or a bodily textbook.
  • On-line IDEs and visualizers. To get rid of setting points, improve engagement, and supply quicker suggestions, instructors leveraged on-line coding instruments. Supporting college students’ technical points with their native growth environments could possibly be a full-time job in itself, so on-line IDEs utterly get rid of this ache level. Instructors have been notably impressed by instructional instruments that present visualizations of the scholars’ code.
  • Automated grading. A very long time dream of CS instructors has been to utterly automate grading. Many talked about using take a look at circumstances and naive grading scripts, and a few instructors talked about that AI graders could quickly be viable. Nevertheless, there appears to be a stress right here: instructors additionally identified the necessity for the “human contact”.
  • Flipped classroom. To higher perceive the place college students are struggling, instructors have switched to in-class actions whereas having recorded lectures for homework. This has the additional benefit that college students can rewatch or rewind the lecture. A number of instructors switched to this mannequin due to COVID-19 however caught with it after seeing the advantages.
  • Peer instruction. To supply higher suggestions and overcome the shortage of TAs, instructors have experimented with peer instruction. For instance, one teacher has a number of workplace hour periods with small teams. Others require student-led examine teams. They’ve additionally discovered undergraduate TAs to be efficient and low cost to scale core programs.

There are a lot of alternatives to enhance the lives of instructors and college students in pc science programs. As class sizes improve, how is an teacher to know when a scholar struggles with the identical idea throughout a number of assignments? How can they supply truthful mechanisms for college kids of varied backgrounds to hunt assist? How do instructors preserve their programs fashionable whereas sufficiently attending to all of the administrivia? What’s the proper stability of automation and human contact?

What position does AI play, particularly these powered by giant language fashions like ChatGPT and Copilot?

Learn extra in our SIGCSE’23 paper: What Is Your Biggest Pain Point? An Investigation of CS Instructor Obstacles, Workarounds, and Desires.

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