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Student Prediction And Tracking Of Learning Progress Through An Assembly Language Programming Course

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.473.1 - 4.473.7

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Paper Authors

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M. R. Smith

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2532

Student Prediction and Tracking of Learning Progress during an Assembly Language Programming Course

M. R. Smith University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada


The learning curve associated with a design-oriented 3rd year course on assembly language programming and interfacing is in complete contrast to that for a C++ course. Marks are typically bimodal during the early stages of the course, but shift rapidly as the students cotton onto the material. Managing student expectations, and initial frustrations, during such a course is a challenge to the instructor. This paper discusses several process management techniques the student can use to track their own progress through any course. The techniques also provide feedback to the instructor in terms of class understanding. Tools for handling the process management techniques are illustrated.

1. Introduction

Last year I had the worse evaluation and student rapport in 20 years of teaching. Discussions with a teaching psychologist suggested that the problems stemmed from an inability to convey and manage my expectations to a large class. Three issues complicated these problems. The first factor is my style of teaching. With a background as an “experimental physicist” I teach all my courses with a hands-on approach using extensive design component in laboratories and open- ended questions in quizzes. Many 3rd year students are uncomfortable with the freedom this approach provides.

Another factor is the change from the structured high-level language programming taught to 1st and 2nd year classes to the more unstructured format and steep, initial learning curve associated with assembly language programming at the 3rd year level. Experience shows that early quizzes produce bimodal results with class averages around C/C-. This is very frustrating for students who will cotton onto the material later in the class. They can’t bring themselves to believe the instructor’s verbal reassurances during the term that their marks will pick up and the final class average will be B/B- or better.

A final factor in my poor evaluation was the souring of class-professor relationships because of an unintentional error generated in the answer sheet handed out directly after an in-class quiz. The exam was marked using the correct answer, causing a very minor change in the quiz mark and zero effect on the final GPA. However, that was not the manner the changes were perceived by the class.

Smith, M. R. (1999, June), Student Prediction And Tracking Of Learning Progress Through An Assembly Language Programming Course Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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