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0272 Does an Automatic Test Harness (ATH) help learning?


13:00 - 14:00 on Wednesday, 8 September 2010 in Pos


0272 Does an Automatic Test Harness (ATH) help learning?
Maryam Kheir Abadi, Graham Alsop, James Orwell


0272 Does an Automatic Test Harness (ATH) help learning?
Maryam Kheir Abadi, Graham Alsop, James Orwell
Assessing, marking and giving feedback to students’ learning programming is time consuming. By using an Automated Test Harness (ATH) as a piece of e-Assessment, these processes are faster. Students log into their account and access their module materials; the ATH is available as a Zip file. They download the Zip file, open it and put their solution in a file called “your solution here”. A batch file runs a complete solution locally against their solution. Specific feedback is given, for example, which methods were not working properly. An initial mark is given with feedback. A student can then correct their program and try again. The ATH approach is scalable and can cope with large numbers of students (currently 200).Woit and Mason (2003) and Bostock (2004) point out that e-assessments, in general, motivate students to achieve better results, because before the final assessment they have the opportunity to see their mistakes and learn. More specifically, “Oliver (1998b) concluded that automatic assessment of student programming exercises on the basis of output, layout and source code was ‘highly motivating for most students’” (Bostock, 2004). This use of an ATH is being studied using Activity Theory (AT). AT involves the use of an ontology. A student (Subject) is looking to use the ATH (Tool) in the context of a Java course (Object) with the objective of completing their assignment (Outcome). There are other important terms (rules, communities and division of labour) that will be described fully. However, AT does not specify a means to collect and analyse data. Grounded Theory (GT) is being used for this (Alsop and Kheir Abadi, 2010). In summary: GT has an open attitude that lets one use different methods to gather data, such as focus groups, observations and open-ended questions, and is an objective approach that allows participants to respond using their language without the researcher offering any preconceived ideas; it also allows the number of cases examined to grow with the research. In this poster the research outcomes of using ATH are offered to establish the advantages and disadvantages of using this tool to support learning.