[PDF] Investigation of CS Instructor Obstacles, Workarounds, and Desires

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cs instructor obstacles workarounds


To be an instructor, there are too many obstacles while instructing. They have many hard responsibilities as CS Instructors.

Samim Mirhosseini, PhD student at North Carolina State University and Austin Z. Henley and Chris Pernin, researchers at Microsoft, asked 32 computer science instructors at local universities and colleges. Their feedback will be summarized in a recently submitted paper to be presented at SIGCSE 2023.

cs instructor obstacles workarounds desires

Educators are responsible for understanding what students are struggling with, answering student questions, supporting limited Teaching Assistants (TAs), grading and feedback, preparing course materials, and implementing assignments, challenges, and what they want.

Interestingly, instructors are increasing their use of TAs, interactive textbooks/exercises, automated grading, “flipped” classrooms [where lectures are assigned as video assignments and class time is set aside for interaction], and peer tutoring. 

– Not always that which they suppress, they pointed out.

– “Some TAs are not mature programmers,” instructors note the fact.

cs instructor obstacles workarounds desires

“TAs sometimes only run the unit tests and never read the code, [so] two submissions that were nearly identical, but one got [high] marks and the other got [low] marks.”

“Automation brings its own challenges,” the instructor adds, pointing to interactive textbook problems that award points but deduct points even for unsolved differences.

 (“My students struggle so much with it and they spend hours trying to get the white space correct in their program when in reality that’s not what I want them spending time on”).

– Instructors also cited the struggles with “how to design ‘Copilot-proof’ assignments, to prevent students from completing homework assignments in seconds with little conceptual knowledge.

– Regarding the flipped classroom, one instructor confessed, “I’ve checked and there’s very few people watching these videos.”

While grading was cited as “probably the biggest burden of the courses” and “an impossible task,” one instructor still noted a preference to grade things themselves even if they have TAs.

“Because [of] the feedback I can get from […] their homework and assignments.”

Along the same lines, another noted that while they also wish for more automation of mundane tasks, they are strongly opposed to automating feedback to students because “I think this is the wrong direction for education.

Striping away community and humanity from learning.”

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