Increasing student engagement in computer programming

African American professor talking with students in the classroom

Quick identification of strategies — both highly successful as well as the less successful — is fundamental to student engagement in programming. If teachers can quickly identify successful behaviors in students so that such behaviors can be quickly rewarded, teachers can change the way students and teachers interact. Once good teacher-student interaction has begun, student engagement will follow.

For example, data shows that students who regularly use an online homework program like MyProgrammingLab come to class more engaged and prepared. In addition, these students better participate in class discussions (both in-seat and online) by asking higher-level questions. As a result, students are more likely to take ownership of their own learning. Engaging students to a level that they take ownership of their own learning is one of the goals of Bloom’s Taxonomy.


Bloom's Taxonomy chart

Figure 1: Bloom’s Taxonomy


Before using MyProgrammingLab, many students utilized rote memorization to study for tests and to code programs. As you can see from Figure 1, remembering is the lowest form of understanding. Case in point, students would mimic programs found in the textbook, with little or no originality. But once the online program has been introduced, I find students who are quite a bit higher on Bloom’s Taxonomy. For example, they are being creative, imaginative and innovative. Of course creativity is the highest form of understanding. Students who are able to create their own programming solutions will be more highly paid than students who simply re-use code from the textbook.

Better engagement leads to better retention:

Many colleges and universities today are streamlining curriculum by merging multiple curricula into the Science Technologies, Engineering and Math (STEM) department. This merging of curricula is due in part to declining student enrollment and retention. At our college we are striving to increase student retention. We consider students who achieve a letter grade of A, B, or C to be retained. Any withdrawals, Ds or Fs are considered non-retained. MyProgrammingLab is a great tool in early identification of students who are having significant trouble understanding the concepts being introduced in a programming language. Recently, I published an article which appeared in Pearson Career: Efficacy Report 2015, entitled MyProgrammingLab. In it, I provided data which suggests students who earned A’s and B’s on the online assignments earned higher final course grades, either an A or a B, than students who did not. The data showed a significant positive correlation between homework scores and quiz performance.

 Assessment is dynamic and grading is automatic

Students really enjoy the immediate feedback provided by MyProgrammingLab. Teachers love it too, because the student submissions are automatically graded! The online roster sure helps keep up with what the students have submitted, and points out where learners  are having difficulty. It assists in locating trouble spots in student understanding of key topics. The fact that the gradebook is color-coded is a big help in identifying the progress of your class. It is easy to dig deeper in the online gradebook to look up information on a particular student’s performance on a specific problem. It is nice, too, that the online program supports exports to Excel. Once in Excel, the data can then be easily shared with your learning management system, such as Blackboard or Moodle.


MyProgrammingLab provides the Pearson textbook online via eText

I love the Pearson eText because it provides students access to their textbook when they forget to bring their textbook to class. The eText allows students to take notes, bookmark and highlight. Lecture and example videos are available so that students can, with one mouse click, watch how the author of the textbook explains certain basic concepts. Instructors too, can take advantage of these features and it is easy to share information, highlights, or comments with students via the sharing features. Taken together, all of this media content allows and creates a cyber community of learners and educators.

If you own an Android or iPad tablet, this is no problem because the Pearson eText companion app allows existing subscribers to gain access to their titles. Tablets offer the highest-quality visual fidelity, thus reducing eye strain.


In short, my webinar summarizes ways for teachers to quickly identify successful behaviors in students so that such behaviors can be quickly rewarded, thus changing the way students and teachers interact.



About the Author

Jim Carrier, Ph.D.

Jim Carrier, Ph.D.

Dr. Carrier came to GTCC from the corporate training world. Precise delivery of instructor-led, curriculum rich, goal laden programs for clients such as Duke University Law School, Duke University Medical Center, and RJR Scientific and Regulatory Affairs speaks to his experience. Jim also taught math at the high school level for 10 years. Altogether, Jim has over 30 years of classroom experience. He has two daughters and four grandchildren. Jim is a chess enthusiast and won the Greensboro Chess Open in 1988 and actually played (and lost) an online game of chess with Garry Kasparov, world chess champion. Currently, Jim is a professor at GTCC specializing in teaching Introduction to Programming using Python and MyProgrammingLab.