It would be unlikely for any first year programming class to be solely composed of novices. We all have students with a range of abilities, and this generates challenges as to the best way in which to manage and teach the class. The students at the top need to be enthused whilst we provide extra help to the students at the bottom, and try not to demotivate the ones in the middle. The TOPS project was designed to incorporate sharing of current practice, peer observations across universities, collaborative problem setting and intra-university programming competitions as a means of extending the most able students in programming classes.
The inter-university competition has two strands, both of which attract prizes for the winners. The first is for groups of students from each institution to create a challenge for students from other institutions to attempt in pairs. The second strand involves pairs of students attempting the challenges created in the first strand. Challenge marking is normalised rather than absolute to allow for variation of difficulty levels between challenges.
The project team wish to thank the HEA-ICS for the development fund grant which made this project possible.
Anyone interested in the project may be interested in the following papers:
Carter J, Efford N, Jamieson
S, Jenkins T and White S The TOPS Project
– Teaching Our Over-Performing Students presented at the 8th
Annual Conference of the HE Academy Subject Centre for Information and Computer
White S, Carter J, Jamieson
S, Efford N & Jenkins T Tops - Collaboration and Competition to Stretch our Most Able
Programming Novices. Presented at the 37th Frontiers in education Conference,
· Carter J, Efford N, Jamieson S, Jenkins T and White S Taxing our best students. ITALICS journal 7(1), June 2008