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Seminar: Better Understanding the Challenges of Novice Programmers through the Use of Automated Assessment Tools

Ray Pettit

Assistant Professor, University of Virginia

Friday, May 3
11:15am - 12:30am
110 McBryde Hall


Researchers have spent a great deal of effort building automated assessment tools (AATs) for use in computer science courses. While AATs were once built almost exclusively by academia, commercial tools recently have been rising in popularity. As more resources have become available to improve AATs, many tools are now taking on the roles of both assessment and intelligent tutoring. While this progress seems welcome, tool makers need to be careful that feature addition is informed by quality research.

The opening of this talk will briefly describe the results of three experiments that I have been part of in the past involving AATs. The bulk of the talk will then focus on an ongoing project attempting to utilize an AAT to increase the metacognitive awareness of novice programmers. Early results of this experiment have indicated that students who received the experimental intervention showed a higher degree of understanding the problem, leading to differences in completion rates and types of errors.  


Raymond Pettit is interested in improving how novices learn to program. He has published in the areas of automated assessment tools, metacognitive awareness, and compiler error messages. Ray has been active in the CS Ed research community, presenting at ACM SIGCSE and ACM ICER. This summer he will be co-leading a Working Group at ACM ITiCSE on Programming Error Message Design. More about Ray can be found at