Teaching data structures through group based collaborative peer interactions

Sajid Nazir*, Stephen Naicken, James H. Paterson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

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Abstract

Data structures and algorithms is an important subject in Computer Science curriculum and builds upon the programming concepts learned by the students in their earlier courses. However, the abstract nature of the concepts can often be difficult for students to grasp. This problem becomes aggravated in an international setting with students from diverse academic backgrounds, resulting in some students losing interest and failing to follow along. This paper describes our novel approach to teach data structures for Computing undergraduates from 30 African countries at African Leadership College (ALC) in Mauritius in partnership with Glasgow Caledonian University, UK. The blended learning program uses a student led "flipped classroom" approach, requiring students to view lecture and supporting material online prior to engaging in on-campus seminar session with the tutor. Peer instruction is a key component of the flipped approach. In seminars, students worked on group based problem-solving activities in data structures supported by the tutor. The students devised their solutions on white boards taking ownership of the problem, became motivated to discuss their ideas freely, and to select a group solution. The group solutions were then shared with the other groups and peer reviewed, led by the tutor. This collaborative learning environment was observed to facilitate discussions, and students' contributions and performance in later assessments offered evidence of understanding of core subject concepts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 8th Computer Science Education Research Conference (CSERC '19)
PublisherACM
Pages98–103
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9781450377171
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2019

Keywords

  • data structures
  • group learning
  • active learning
  • blended learning

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