A Survey of CS Instructor Obstacles, Workarounds, and Desires


Longtime Slashdot reader Theodp writes:

“What is your biggest problem? », North Carolina State University PhD student Samim Mirhosseini, and Microsoft researchers Austin Z. Henley and Chris Parnin surveyed 32 computer science professors at universities and community colleges. Their comments are summarized in a just-published article that will be presented at SIGCSE 2023.

Instructors cited understanding issues facing students, answering student questions, limited support from teaching assistants (TAs), grading and feedback, preparing course materials, and administrative tasks as challenges, pain points and things they wish they could change. Interestingly, the instructors indicated that some of the attempts to fix the problems, including the increased use of ATinteractive textbooks/exercises, automated grading, “flipped” classes [where lectures are assigned as video homework, with classtime reserved for interaction]and peer instruction – are not always what they are supposed to be.

– “Some teaching assistants are not mature programmers,” noted the instructors. “TAs sometimes only run the unit tests and never read the code, [so] two nearly identical submissions, but one got [high] brands and the other got [low] Brands.”

– Automation brings its own challenges, the instructors added, citing the problem of interactive textbooks that give grades but deduct points even if there is only a space difference with the solution (“My students have so much trouble with it and they spend hours trying to get the white space correct in their program when in reality that’s not what I want them to spend time on”).

– Instructors also cited difficulties with “how to design “Co-pilot proof” missionsto prevent students from completing homework in seconds with little conceptual knowledge.

– Regarding the flipped classroom, an instructor confessed, “I checked and there are very few people watching these videos.”

Although grading was cited as “probably the biggest burden of lessons” and “an impossible task”, one instructor still noted a preference for grading things himself even though he has teaching aides” because [of] the feedback i can get […] their duties and homework. Along the same lines, another noted that while he also wanted more automation of mundane tasks, he strongly opposed automating student feedback because “I think that’s the way to go.” wrong direction for education. Removing community and humanity from learning.”


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