Westfälische Hochschule - University of Applied Sciences (GERMANY)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2023 Proceedings
Publication year: 2023
Pages: 9281-9290
ISBN: 978-84-09-55942-8
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2023.2382
Conference name: 16th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 13-15 November, 2023
Location: Seville, Spain
It is by common-sense but also supported by empirical research that focus, activation and engagement are among the most important success factors for students’ performance.

In this paper, we reveal several approaches that have been undertaken over the last more than 25 years of teaching undergraduate programming classes at different Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in order to improve student activation and participation in class and thus learning effectiveness.
Having started the academic career in times when a ‘lecture theatre’ had very much in common with a ‘theatre’ in the classic sense where something happened on stage while the auditorium mostly passively followed the class with almost no interaction – maybe except for the stereotypical Robert just asking whether the topic is relevant for the exam – we soon recognized that we need to activate students to get out of their comfort zone and take an active part in their learning process. The focus moved from the teaching and teacher’s perspective to the perspective of the learners and their role in the learning process which, ultimately, we want them to take ownership of.
Thus, very early we started using interactive voting systems (‘clickers’) in class to run quizzes and retrieve anonymous feedback from the students. These physical devices - long before every student now has their own smartphone – brought a bit of “Who wants to be a millionaire?” to the classroom. But as it needs more to keep students actively involved in the class especially as nowadays distraction by social media etc. also has become an issue, we then also investigated other approaches like Inverted (Flipped) Classroom or Peer Instruction. Inspired by a visit to Harvard University, we were then the first in Germany to introduce the Social Learning platform Perusall which allowed us to implement Just-in-Time Teaching (JITT) in our programming classes. Consequently, we also redesigned our courses in a strictly competence-oriented and constructively aligned manner including programming exams in the lab – or from home during CoViD – using state-of-the-art tools (IDE etc.).

The yearly held programming competition PrimeGame in the first semester as well as the student projects on implementing various board games in the second semester also helped much in keeping students’ motivation and involvement high – reflected not only by improved exam results but also in the constantly run feedback and evaluation surveys.

While all these and more digital tools and innovative approaches that entered the scene, especially during the times of pandemic already contributed much to student activation and motivation, we recently made a next step to keep them in the driver’s seat of their own learning process by introducing the concept of Peer Challenges, where students submit exercises to be solved by their peers and then also do most of the evaluation of the incoming solutions (peer assessment) for the crediting of bonus points.

Looking back at this journey over more than 25 years, the paper and presentation will then conclude on lessons learned and how we can further support the transition from the ‘lecture theatre’ towards a ‘participative learning space’.
Student Activation, Interactive Voting Systems, Flipped Classroom, Peer Instruction, Social Learning, Peer Assessment.