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  5. Student co-design of confidence-building formative assessment for Level 1 Computing & IT students

Student co-design of confidence-building formative assessment for Level 1 Computing & IT students

Project leader(s): 
Paul Piwek and Simon Savage

The pedagogic issue that will be addressed is the problem students face when learning a complicated skill such programming and problem solving. According to Jenkins (2002) this is a slow and gradual process with students learning at different paces. Additionally, students often start a programming course with the preconception that programming is difficult, which has a negative effect on their motivation and can be reinforced if they are subjected to summative assessment too early.

In TM112 (Introduction to computing and information technology 2), several strategies were used to build student confidence and encourage sustained practice and reflection (Piwek et al., 2019). Among other things, a new approach to formative assessment was explored, which makes use of strictly formative quizzes. To encourage students to engage with these quizzes, students were rewarded with a small number of marks for including evidence of engagement with the quizzes with their TMAs. Marks were for the evidence of engagement and personal narrative/reflection on their engagement with the quiz questions. Since the quiz questions were not marked, students were also encouraged to discuss their attempts and answers with other students.

The main task of this proposal will be to:

  • investigate the effectiveness of the student discussions that took place about the quiz questions.
  • involve students in further increasing the effectiveness by co-designing quiz questions that are specifically aimed at helping students gain understanding and lead to in-depth peer discussions/dialogue. The aim will be to better understand the student perspective on design and presentation of the quizzes.

The main outcomes will be:

  • new and/or redesigned quiz questions for TM112
  • recommendations for design of formative assessment based on the co-design process
  • insights into the benefits and pitfalls of co-design activities with students

The impact of this research will consist in further improvements to student engagement and understanding of formative assessment.


Jenkins, T. (2002). ‘On the Difficulty of Learning to Program’, Proceedings of the 3rd Annual HEA Conference for the ICS Learning and Teaching Support Network, pp. 1-8

Piwek, Paul; Wermelinger, Michel; Laney, Robin and Walker, Richard (2019). Learning to program: from problems to code. In: Third Conference in Computing Education Practice (CEP), 9 Jan 2019, Durham, UK.

Piwek, P. and Savage, S. (2019) Project poster (PDF)