On the reliability of classifying programming tasks using a neo-piagetian theory of cognitive development

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Conference Proceeding
ICER'12 - Proceedings of the 9th Annual International Conference on International Computing Education Research, 2012, pp. 31 - 38
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Recent research has proposed Neo-Piagetian theory as a useful way of describing the cognitive development of novice programmers. Neo-Piagetian theory may also be a useful way to classify materials used in learning and assessment. If Neo-Piagetian coding of learning resources is to be useful then it is important that practitioners can learn it and apply it reliably. We describe the design of an interactive web-based tutorial for Neo-Piagetian categorization of assessment tasks. We also report an evaluation of the tutorial's effectiveness, in which twenty computer science educators participated. The average classification accuracy of the participants on each of the three Neo-Piagetian stages were 85%, 71% and 78%. Participants also rated their agreement with the expert classifications, and indicated high agreement (91%, 83% and 91% across the three Neo-Piagetian stages). Self-rated confidence in applying Neo-Piagetian theory to classifying programming questions before and after the tutorial were 29% and 75% respectively. Our key contribution is the demonstration of the feasibility of the Neo-Piagetian approach to classifying assessment materials, by demonstrating that it is learnable and can be applied reliably by a group of educators. Our tutorial is freely available as a community resource. Copyright 2012 ACM.
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