Assessing and checking student understanding in CS Discoveries and CS Principles


What checks for understanding are available in the curriculum?  

Throughout the lessons, teachers have many ways to to quickly gauge whether students have grasped a particular concept. Almost all activities that students engage in allow for a teacher to check for understanding.

Prediction levels ask students to look at a piece of code and predict what it will do. They are often given before content is presented in order to scope students’ exploration during the learning process. Teachers can monitor students’ predictions and compare to their later work in the lesson. Note that prediction levels are currently only being used in CS Discoveries.

Skill-building levels challenge students to complete a small programming task. Teachers have access to all student work in these levels and can read and run the code that students have produced. Puzzles often include exemplar solutions for teachers to reference.

Class discussions provide an opportunity for group sense making. These discussions may begin with students writing down their individual thoughts before sharing with a partner or group.

Quick-check levels include multiple choice or short answer questions. These are usually given after students have had a chance to explore a concept. They check for common misunderstandings before students move on to the next lesson or task.

What opportunities do I have to assess and provide feedback to students?

The course materials contain a number of assessment types and opportunities which can be used formatively (to check for understanding) or summatively (for evaluation). In some cases, students will submit this work online through, and in other cases on paper. Here are the things to look out for as opportunities to provide feedback:

Submittable levels are levels that can be submitted to a teacher for feedback. Most of these levels come at the end of a lesson or chapter and involve a creation task. When a student submits a project through the “submit” button, the project will be submitted with a timestamp and locked for teacher review. The teacher can release the project back to the student as well. Teachers can use these tasks to assess whether students have mastered the objectives of the lesson and give students feedback on their progress.

Activity Guides accompany unplugged lessons in the curriculum. They include prompts and questions that teachers can use to follow students’ progress through the lesson and reflection questions that can give insight into what students have learned from the activity.

Journal Questions allow students to reflect on what they have learned, and what they hope to learn more about.

CS Principles only

We offer more standard assessment type questions (e.g. multiple choice, matching questions, and free-response) in our CS Principles course as the course is designed to prepare students for the AP exam. We offer these questions in two ways:

Lesson assessment items - You will find assessment items embedded in individual lessons, typically as the last few “bubbles” for a lesson. These are intended to be used as formative assessment items. Students can always see them and change their responses at any time.

Chapter assessments (lockable) are typically 10-15 question multiple choice tests intended to mimic AP-style questions. They look like their own lesson on and have lock settings as well as the usual visibility settings. These can be used for formative or summative assessments. You can learn more about administering these assessments here

How can I look at the work my students did?

You can look at the progress a student made for a specific level by going to the given level and clicking on the student’s name in the blue teacher panel on the right.

Why do my students’ bubbles turn green even if they don’t have the right answer?

In CS Discoveries and CS Principles, we strive to give students an opportunity to express their creativity and think outside the box. That’s why we often try not to be very prescriptive in exactly how to complete a level. For example, we may ask the student to draw a square on the screen but might not care if it’s a specific size or color.

This means that different students can have completely different and valid solutions for the same programming level. This makes it very difficult to automatically validate students’ work. A green bubble on a programming level simply means that the student is indicating that they are done with the given level.

Our suggestion would be to assess students’ understanding by looking specifically at submitted levels. If you see a specific student is missing certain key concepts or did not do well on a submittable level, then you can go back and look at their skill-building levels to make sure the student was actually attempting the levels and not simply marking the  levels as complete. This approach will hopefully alleviate the need to go through and check every students’ work on every skill-building level.


Share Assessment Strategies on the Forum  

Both CS Discoveries and CS Principles have sections of the forum where teachers share their experiences and strategies for assessing student work. Join the conversation for CS Discoveries here and CS Principles here!


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