STUDENT COACHING APPROACHES IN ACADEMIC TECHNOLOGY CONTESTS
Student contests are becoming an increasingly popular complementary learning approach. Integrating contests in computer science education has shown to be effective in solving classroom problems and boosting overall student performance. The increased number of student technology contests worldwide has emphasized the importance of individual and team coaching in producing winning results and achieving learning outcomes. In team-based contests, special attention has been drawn to the role of team management in maximizing contestants’ performance. Literature in this area, however, is too limited as yet to make inferences about technology contests in specific. To date, literature on coaching teams in competitions is dominated by contributions in the field of sports and athletics. In this paper we attempt to add a context-specific perspective to team coaching through examining two types of student technology contests; programming contests and prototype development contests. The paper will provide a comparative analysis of the two types of contests through the lenses of team management and coaching theories, underpinning the main factors that optimize student performance before and during contests. By identifying the nature of team-coach interaction within each type of contest, this paper aims to highlight the role of effective coaching in dealing with typical and emerging challenges in technology contests. The first half of the paper will dissect the components of the two types of contests in question, using the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) and the Microsoft Imagine Cup as examples. Contributions of the two contests to the learning process will be elaborated through previous experience of integrating them into data structures and software engineering courses. The second half of the paper will establish an understanding of how individual coaching is required even within team-based contests, touching on the relevant psychological theories of task- oriented and person-oriented coaching approaches. Best practices and recommendations for coaching teams in the two contests will be discussed.