Last modified: 2019-10-13
This is a web page of
David Casperson
Associate Professor
Computer Science
University of Northern British Columbia

Extended Abstract

Chalk Talk:  Using blackboard exercises in programming course tutorials.

In this paper I discuss an approach to tutorial teaching that I have gradually evolved over several years of teaching students in first and second semester programming courses. It involves having groups of three to eight students use the blackboard to solve part of a coding or design exercise in front of the rest of the class.

I find that this approach:

  • engages students' attention;
  • gives them a chance to reflect on coding activities and style;
  • lets them critique and learn from other students; and
  • makes computer programming a social activity.

I also find that this approach to programming serves to illustrate the practical benefits of stepwise design, functional decomposition, and object-oriented design and programming far better than individual laboratory work at a computer terminal. In this paper I describe exercises that I use to help students see functional decomposition as a practial tool to survive tutorials, and, hopefully, to write better programs more easily.

These blackboard exercises occur in tutorials attached to first and second semester programming courses. The paper contains a brief description of the first and second year programming curriculum at UNBC; the role that tutorials play; and the teaching resources allocated to these courses.

The paper also describes how I choose the student groups that I send to write on the blackboard, the value that I see in having a group of students rather than an individual student working at the blackboard, and strategies that I use to keep the other students in the tutorial engaged in the activities of the students at the board.

I believe that I have found a tool to enrich programming tutorials for first and second semester students. Its innovative aspects include use of the blackboard as the programming medium, and team use of the blackboard. I find that this approach engages students attention and helps them to think reflectively about the act of programming and the programming styles and tricks of their fellow students. Through this paper I wish to share my experiences and insights with other programming instructors and receive their feedback.

David Casperson
Department of Computer Science
University of Northern British Columbia
3333 University Way
Prince George, BC       V2N 4Z9

Tel: 1(250)960-6672
Fax: 1(250)960-5544

e-mail: David.Cas‍p‌erson@‍
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