The Iterative & Incremental Teaching Process

In the stairwell between my 1st floor CS lab classroom and my 3rd floor Co-op office, there is a poster that reads, “There is no shortcut to SUCCESS, you have to take the stairs.”  Each day as I walk the stairs and read the appropriately-placed poster on the landing between the 1st and 2nd floors (pun mostly surely intended by some clever person), I think to myself “true that, but only after you build your own staircase.”    I believe that people come along side teaching us to build, helping with raw materials, helping to develop skill sets and that the events of our lives and the choices of our lives become our construction project.   This is the entire premise of scaffolding in teaching — teachers are to help students build their staircase via scaffolded instruction.

The iterative (looping) and incremental (step by step) teaching process is our construction project:  a scaffolded staircase intended to lead students to success in learning.  Further, the development process of any task is this continual cycle of learning and building toward success while refining and redesigning with each iteration.

During these last weeks while teaching and guiding students to learn both programming concepts and the components of the Create Performance Task, the “iterative and incremental development process” become not only what I am teaching  but also what I am doing in CSP class. Our class projects are becoming iterations toward the Create PT with increasing expectation with each increment.   For example, in learning Snap! and block programming there were two distinct loops “projects” fit this process.  The FIRST ITERATION:  a guided Snap! project on a maze with questions and answers and a point system; the submission was a handwritten 2a-2d prompts in the student’s abstractionJournal along with screen shots of code and a video of the code’s execution.  The SECOND ITERATION: a maze add on OR new, individual project in Snap! but with a typed 2a-2d submission complete with code snippets all saved to one PDF and a video of the project’s execution.

During both project lab days and submissions, I guided students to work through an “iterative and incremental development process” while guiding students to document in their journals in the style of the Create PT.  At points during the process I would have students stop to record decision points, problems, resolutions, opportunities, types of algorithms being used, how complexity is managed, etc.   While these were not mock projects or over complex, the submissions were geared toward the PT prompts.  Neither project had more than 2 algorithms and nor did either require dependent algorithms; however, we are still learning and building our scaffolded staircase.

This iterative and incremental teaching process has been very successful to allow me to give specific feedback on the Create PT prompts.  We will continue to scaffold and iterate through these steps as we work on an App Inventor project and then learn a little Python on two teacher-guided projects.  Submissions will be PT based but not overwhelming or exhausting.  Feedback and practice is the focus.   After seeing student written descriptions on these next three major guided works,  I will know more about their writing and attention to detail as well as their ability to demonstrate understanding through written responses.   Then, hopefully, we will be ready to accomplish the Create PT before the holidays.

Below are several pictures from their abstractionJournals and digital submission with feedback annotations.   I encourage you to gear your student submissions (even on small or guided projects) toward the PT prompts as they are well written and clear.  Scaffolding in a purposeful way will build student understanding and confidence.

I hope these ideas and images help you and that you have a great rest of your week!   Blessings, Jill


Scaffolding toward Create PT with Class Projects

1.  Guide or assign a class project to help students build skills in programming.

This can be in any language you plan to use in the CSP course and can be a project of any simplicity or complexity level.

2.  Provide a graphic organizer to help students take notes in the style of the Create Performance Task prompts.

Guide students to take notes about the class project.  This is a part of the project planning/design process and brainstorming.  Having a journal helps students keep track of these type things as the year progress.   See abstractionJournal video on right sidebar —————–>>>

Create “graphic organizer” by having students label a page for draft of the PT prompts.  Guide students to complete these at the end of class periods during days of the project completion in class.

Sample of a student’s draft notes in her journal 🙂   This draft notes could be a submission for an early iteration of this process.  Remember, scaffolding is to increase the expectation as the skill set develops — the more students know, the more teachers should expect.

3.  Have students prepare a typed PT-style response complete with code snippets of their algorithms and abstraction.

Guide students to use a template, create a video of code running, use screencast and snipping tools to prepare the submission documents.   This process is not overly complex but should be taught and developed, not assumed.   A major component of scaffolding is helping student develop the skill sets to be successful.

Determine who may need additional help with document assembly and file preparation.  Take up work only in video and PDF formats as specified in the PT guidelines.   Again, no need to review the full guidelines at this point but demonstrate and use them to teach what is expected.

4.  Provide feedback about the content of the prompt submission, but grade for completion not quality because this is an early, scaffolding/learning PT activity.   See my feedback on these snippets from actual student submissions for our Snap! Maze add-on projects.

Students submitted one PDF of written responses in Canvas; I scored for completion because the purpose was to give feedback on what was included in the response.  Remember, we cannot give feedback on the actual PT; therefore, it is critical that many opportunities for teacher feedback are given during the learning/scaffolding process.  Take time to have students review this feedback before the next iteration of submitting a project in PT format and style.

Notice that at this phase, I have not required ovals and rectangles around the code nor have I required students to submit a PDF screen captures of all their project code.  This is because we are in an iterative process and this was iteration 2.  We will add layers of complexity at later iterations of the scaffolding.

5.  Evaluate success, refine, and repeat on the next complex project

Do not require students to do this process for minor class assignments.   Use this process for culminating projects or unit projects.


Chart Papers about Create PT

These are some posters that might be helpful to create for your classroom lab.